Advocacy groups urge gov’t to fine vanished case files of Terrain Hotel attack victims

South Sudanese soldiers being tried by the Military Court Martial for gang raping women and little girls in the capital, Juba(Photo: file)

South Sudanese soldiers being tried by the Military Court Martial for gang raping women and little girls in the capital, Juba(Photo: file)

September 6th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – One year on, since a South  Sudanese court convicted 10 soldiers of raping foreign workers and killing a local journalist, Amnesty International has called on the government to look into missing case files of rape victims believed to have disappeared in the president’s office.

“Today marks one year since ten soldiers were convicted of raping at least five aid workers and murdering a journalist in Terrain Hotel,” said Amnesty International on Friday.

Sabrina Prioli, one of the rape survivors, said she’s highly disappointed by the way the government has been blocking the their appeals.

“After the compensation was awarded, I felt violated again, I felt raped again by the justice system,” she said.

Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s East Africa Deputy Director said “the victims of this heinous attack and their families have suffered so much already – it’s unfathomably cruel to prolong their quest for justice.”

As pressure mounts on South Sudan authorities, three human rights  groups, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Legal Action Worldwide teamed up and strongly condemned the government for obstructing justice.

“A missing case file is blocking appeals in the case of the 2016 Terrain Hotel attack in Juba, South Sudan, in which a local journalist was killed and at least five aid workers raped,” the human rights advocacy groups said.

“Today marks one year since ten soldiers were convicted of the July 2016 attack , and since the missing case file, which included the judgment, was sent to President Salva Kiir for confirmation. The file has not been seen since.

UN officials and diplomats strongly suspect the file was lost in the Office of the President. For the case to proceed on appeal, a complete record of the case is required,” the statement issued by the right groups partly reads.

Last September, the rape and sexual assault survivors and the family of John Gatluak Manguet, the journalist killed in the attack, appealed against the court’s decision to award USD $4,000 to each of the survivors, and 51 cows to the journalist’s family.

They argued that the compensation was not proportionate to the crimes and the physical and mental trauma they have endured since the attack. The convicted soldiers also filed their intention to appeal against the conviction.

Antonia Mulvey, Founder and Executive Director of Legal Action Worldwide, said it’s regrettable that following the court’s conviction, the survivors’ appeals on the verdict could not be heard over the missing case file.

“It is outrageous that a year after the conviction, the parties’ appeals cannot be heard because of the missing case file. The authorities should ensure that there are no deliberate attempts to obstruct justice and locate the file, so the Supreme Court can examine the appeal.”

Jehanne Henry, Human Rights Watch’s associate Africa director, criticized the disappearance of the case file, saying that it serves as a clear indication that South Sudan’s judicial system has failed miserably.

“While the trial of the soldiers in the Terrain case is a first step, the justice process isn’t finished yet. The disappearance of the case file has effectively stalled the appeal process and serves as a classic example of the justice system failures that exacerbate the culture of impunity in South Sudan.”

“While last year’s convictions were an important first step toward accountability for human rights violations in South Sudan, the authorities must ensure that justice takes its full course.

Under South Sudanese law, trials involving crimes against civilians should be heard by civilian courts, not military courts, as the Terrain Hotel case was.

The authorities must ensure that the victims get their right to a remedy and the accused their right to a fair trial,” the groups further stressed.

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