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South Sudan hands lengthy jail sentences
to renegade soldiers for raping aid workers

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The South Sudan Liberation Army (SPLA) court on Thursday sentenced ten soldiers to long-term imprisonment for raping foreign aid workers besides robbery and murder during the outbreak of renewed violence in the capital of Juba in July 2016.

Neath Almaz Juma, chairman of the military court, said five soldiers will serve 10 year prison sentence, and two others were convicted to life sentence.

The others will serve between seven years and 14 years.

The verdict brings an end to a trial which commenced on May 30 2017 and had somewhere stalled due to lack of witnesses who fled the country during the renewed violence between government troops and rebels allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar.

According to military prosecutors, the court invited and interviewed some of the victims from foreign countries to finally conclude the widely publicized trial which has been closely followed by diplomats amid criticism on delays in expediting justice by the UN human rights division and other international NGOs.

The military court also ordered compensation for the six victims including a local journalist John Gatluak who was shot dead by the soldiers at the Terrain hotel located South of Juba.

It ordered payment of 2.3 million U.S. dollars to Michael Woodward, the proprietor of Terrain Hotel as compensation in damages caused by the errant soldiers meanwhile six victims of rape will be paid each 4,000 dollars.

The family of the slain journalist Gatluak who was killed for belonging to the Nuer tribe of rebel leader Machar by the soldiers from the Tiger division responsible for President Salva Kiir’s security will receive 51 heads of cattle as compensation from the government.

President Kiir and Machar, leader of SPLA-in opposition rebel group, signed the Aug. 5 peace agreement in the Sudanese capital to end over four years of conflict which started in December 2013 leading to killing of thousands of people. Millions are displaced internally and externally.


UN mission welcomes justice for victims of Terrain Hotel violence

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday welcomed the final trail of 10 soldiers found guilty by the military court for raping and murdering during the violence in the capital Juba in July 2016.

UNMISS said the victims and survivors of this horrific attack deserved justice and added that according to evidence raised during the trial, questions remain about whether accountability for these crimes reached high enough up the chain of command.

"While the guilty verdicts handed down will not take away the pain and suffering caused by the appalling acts of violence carried out by these criminals, it is important that they have finally been held publicly accountable," it said in a statement issued in Juba.

It disclosed that the outcome of the trial also sends a powerful message to other would-be offenders, including members of the armed forces, that they will be prosecuted and punished for such violence.

This came after the court ruled that five soldiers will serve 10-year prison sentence, one will serve seven-year sentence and two 14-year imprisonment.

Two others were convicted on life sentence and one was acquitted of the charges.

The court also ordered the government to pay damages to the victims.

The verdict brings an end to a trial that commenced in May 2017 but stalled due to a lack of witnesses, who fled the country during the renewed violence between government troops and rebels allied to former first vice president Riek Machar.

UNMISS said the witnesses and survivors demonstrated true courage and patience by participating in the judicial process.

"There were some significant challenges throughout the process, including the detention conditions of the defendants, some impediments to the defendants’ access to counsel, and the trial of these crimes against civilians in a military rather than civilian court," it said.

"This trial brought to justice offenders involved in the particular case of the Terrain Hotel where international workers were targeted.

"However, there remains the broader problem of widespread sexual and gender-based violence against South Sudanese women and children," it said, adding that most cases go unreported and there remains widespread impunity.

UNHCR says 1.84 million internally displaced in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that about 1.84 million South Sudanese are displaced within the country while nearly 2.5 million have fled and remained as refugees in neighboring countries.

Johann Siffointe, United Nations High Commissioner fore Refugees (UNHCR) representative for South Sudan, said the world’s youngest nation has experienced continued displacement since the internal conflict erupted in December 2013.

"Many South Sudanese have been uprooted more than once as they seek opportunities to restart their lives and risk being marginalized in the societies where they live," Siffointe said in a statement issued in Juba.

"The consequences of our collective failure to resolve internal displacement can be devastating."

Siffointe spoke at a high-level event in Juba where participants discussed the need to build upon a participatory process for the development of a national law on internal displacement, and its full implementation by national authorities and stakeholders.

The event marked the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles of Internal Displacement, which was developed under the leadership of Francis Deng and widely accepted as being the global standard for protecting and assisting internally displaced people (IDPs).

Addressing the protection needs of the forcibly displaced and seeking solutions to their plight contribute to greater stability for South Sudan and whole regions, Siffointe said.

"UNHCR South Sudan will use the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles as an opportunity to support the government to incorporate the Guiding Principles into their national legislation," he added.

According to the UNHCR, each year millions of people are forced to leave their homes and are displaced due to conflicts, violence and human rights violations.

The UN agency said South Sudan has made positive efforts so far by becoming a member of the Protocol on Internal Displacement from the Great Lakes Pact, and there is an ongoing process to ratify the Kampala Convention.

It said the development of a national law on internal displacement would provide a concrete instrument to address the causes and challenges of internal displacement.


South Sudan government defends spending on cars for lawmakers



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