Outrage after court case file went missing from presidential office

“The Terrain Hotel compound was ransacked by South Sudanese troops, who went on to attack foreign aid workers,” July 2016. Photo: AP

Juba, September 6, 2019 (SSNA) — A court case involving South Sudan’s soldiers who raped and tortured aid workers and who also killed a local journalist in 2016 is threatened after a case file went missing from President Salva Kiir’s office, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Legal Action Worldwide said.

On July 11, 2016, a group of at least ten government soldiers stormed Terrain hotel, raped and tortured foreign aid workers and killed journalist John Gatluak Manguet Nhial.

The case was well reported worldwide but gain extra attention after the US-based Associated Press (AP) conducted a secret investigation which uncovered disturbing evidence during the incident.

In 2018, soldiers who were accused of committing the crimes were convicted and given jail sentences. However, lawyers for victim quickly repeal the decision, saying it was “unfair.”

Human Rights Watch branded the disappearance of case file as “justice system failures.”

“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,” HRW’s associate Africa director Jehanne Henry says.

After the trial, the court sent the file case to President Kiir for his final decision since the accused were soldiers. Now the file went missing, threatening the appeal process.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa,” Seif Magango states that the issue of the missing document would “prolong” justice for the victims.

“The victims of this heinous attack, and their families, have suffered so much already – it’s unfathomably cruel to prolong their quest for justice,” Magango says.

On its part, Legal Action Worldwide calls the new development “outrageous.”

“It is outrageous that a year after the conviction the parties’ appeals cannot be heard because of a missing case file,” Legal Action Worldwide founder Antonia Mulvey explains, adding, “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.”

A South Sudanese legal analyst who asked his name of shielded for fear of reprisal blasted the government for what he described as “a pure abuse of power and obstruction of justice.”

This is not the first time an important document such this case file went missing. In the past, millions of dollars were reported stolen from Kiir’s office and documents burned which raise many questions.

The South Sudan News Agency (SSNA) was told by the same analyst on Thursday that the only way for a successful repeal would be for human rights organizations and the international community to apply maximum pressure on the government.

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