South Sudan soldiers accused of rape, murder of aid workers appear in court

Peter Malwal Deng (R) of the defense of the accused, speaks beside the accused in the dock on May 30, 2017 in Juba as a South Sudan military court opened the trial of 13 soldiers accused of raping foreign aid workers and murdering a local journalist during fighting in Juba last July. (AFP / Samir Bol)
Updated 30 May 2017
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South Sudan soldiers accused of rape, murder of aid workers appear in court

NAIROBI: Thirteen South Sudanese soldiers accused of raping five foreign aid workers and killing their local colleague appeared before a military court on Tuesday, a case seen as a test of the government’s ability to try war crimes.
The attack, one of the worst on aid workers in South Sudan’s civil war, took place on July 11, 2016 as President Salva Kiir’s troops won a three-day battle in Juba over opposition forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.
Witnesses told Reuters at the time that armed men attacked the Terrain Hotel in the capital Juba for several hours. Victims phoned UN peacekeepers stationed a mile away and begged for help, but none came, the witnesses said.
The military head of the UN peacekeeping mission was fired and the political head resigned over the incident.
“What is concerned here for the court is to address the case in a proper way,” Chief Prosecutor Abukuk Mohammed Ramadan said in opening remarks.
UN investigators and rights group have frequently accused both the army and rebels of murder, torture and rape since the civil war began in 2013, and say the crimes almost always go unpunished.
Describing the incident, the manager of the Terrain Hotel, Mike Woodward, told the court that “between 50 to 100” soldiers arrived in the hotel in the afternoon of July 11 and began looting an hour later.
“Five women working with humanitarian organizations were then raped. John Gatluak was shot at 6:15 pm,” Woodward said.
Peter Malual, the defendants’ lawyer, dismissed the charges saying evidence provided by Woodward was not sufficient to prove the allegations.
“What I know the area was under operation at the time and rebels were controlling the area,” Malual said.
Prosecutors told Reuters the murderers face a minimum of 10 years in jail with a fine paid to the victim’s family, or a maximum of the death penalty. Rapists face up to 14 years.
The three-year conflict has fractured the country along ethnic lines — Kiir is an ethnic Dinka, Machar is a Nuer — and forced a quarter of the 12 million-strong population to flee their homes.
Court officials said the trial would resume on June 6.


Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me. Listen to the scientists’

Updated 4 min 14 sec ago

Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me. Listen to the scientists’

  • Thunberg was invited to a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis
  • She has been in Washington since last week to join US and indigenous activists to build up support for a global climate strike on Friday

WASHINGTON: Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, delivered a pointed message before a US congressional hearing on Wednesday: “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
The 16-year-old founder of the “Fridays For Future” weekly school walkouts to demand government climate-change action submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the hearing in lieu of testimony. It urged rapid, unprecedented changes to the way people live in order to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by 2030.
“People in general don’t seem to be aware of how severe the crisis” is, Thunberg said, urging lawmakers to “unite behind the science” and take action, pleading that people treat climate change “like the existential crisis it is.”
Thunberg was one of four students invited to a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to provide the next generation’s views on climate change.
She has been in Washington since last week to join US and indigenous activists to build up support for a global climate strike on Friday and pressure lawmakers to take action on climate change.
Her first appearance took place in front of the White House on Friday, where she encouraged fellow young activists to keep fighting to be heard. She did not mention US President Donald Trump, a climate change denier who moved to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement early in his tenure, in her remarks.
On Wednesday, Trump announced he plans to revoke California’s ability to set its own more stringent emissions standards for vehicles — the latest move in his administration’s multipronged attack on the state’s efforts to reduce vehicle emissions that could slow the deployment of electric and more efficient vehicles.
At the hearing on Wednesday was also 21-year-old conservative climate-change advocate Benji Backer from Wisconsin. He told lawmakers that young conservatives also favor climate change action, but through an approach focused on technology and allowing the continued use of fossil fuels. “As a proud American, as a life-long conservative and as a young person, I urge you to accept climate change for the reality it is and respond accordingly. We need your leadership,” he said.
While he praised Thunberg and other climate activists for putting the issue at the forefront of politics, he said there was time to take more measured action.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, Thunberg met former President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Obama described the teenager on Twitter as “already one of the planet’s greatest advocates.”
Later on Wednesday, she joined seven young Americans who have sued the US government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They urged political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.
At the panel, Republican representatives praised the students for raising awareness about climate change but disagreed over what action the US should take.
Representative Garret Graves from Louisiana, said his state was affected by rising sea levels and that he supported the US emission reduction target enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, but he criticized the pact for allowing emerging economies like China to continue to emit greenhouse gases.
“I think that signing on to an agreement...that allows for China to have a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030 is inappropriate,” he said.
Thunberg responded that in her home country, Sweden, people similarly criticize the United States for not taking enough action.
Another activist on the panel, 17-year-old Jamie Margolin from Seattle, called out lawmakers for taking too long to enact climate change policies.
“The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today pleading for a livable earth should not fill you with pride; it should fill you with shame,” she said.
Thunberg and the youth leaders also met with Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Thunberg is expected to make a speech on Wednesday evening in the House.