South Sudan court jails soldiers for aid workers rape, journalist murder

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South Sudanese soldiers wait for their verdict at the military court in Juba, South Sudan, on September 6, 2018. (AFP)
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The verdicts for South Sudanese soldiers are announced at the military court in Juba, South Sudan, on September 6, 2018. (AFP)
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South Sudanese soldiers wait for their verdict at the military court in Juba, South Sudan, on September 6, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018

South Sudan court jails soldiers for aid workers rape, journalist murder

  • Ten soldiers were found guilty for their role in an attack on a Juba hotel.
  • Five foreign aid workers were gang-raped, and a journalist was killed in the attack.

JUBA: A South Sudan military court on Thursday found 10 soldiers guilty for their role in an attack on a Juba hotel in which five foreign aid workers were gang-raped, and a journalist was killed.
"The military court has found out that the accused... are guilty for their direct responsibilities in committing these crimes," said Judge Knight Baryano Almas, detailing charges of rape, murder, looting and destruction.
One suspect was acquitted while another, a military commander accused of overseeing the chilling attack, died in prison last October in what the army said was a "natural death".
After 31 trial sessions, two soldiers were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of local journalist John Gatluak, as well as rape and other crimes.
The others received sentences ranging from seven to 14 years for charges including rape, sexual harassment and looting.
Violence erupted in South Sudan's capital when a peace deal between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar collapsed in July 2016.
During the clashes, government forces rampaged through the Terrain hotel compound housing some 50 employees of foreign organisations.
In his evidence at the start of the trial, the hotel's British owner, Mike Woodward, said that "50 to 100 armed soldiers" broke into the compound.
"One group proceeded straight to the bar and restaurant while another group continued to the residential area," he said.
Woodward listed "the gang rape of at least five international women", the murder of a South Sudanese journalist, the shooting of a US aid worker and "the beating and torture of almost every person in the entire building", including mock executions, among the crimes allegedly committed at his hotel.
Woodward's testimony is supported by reports compiled by the UN and Human Rights Watch.
During the attack the aid workers made multiple appeals for help to nearby UN peacekeepers, which went unanswered.
A special UN investigation found that a lack of leadership in the UN mission - which has 13,000 uniformed personnel in South Sudan - culminated in a "chaotic and ineffective response" during the July fighting.
The force's Kenyan commander was sacked.
The court on Thursday ruled that South Sudan's government must pay compensation of $4,000 (3,440 euros) to each rape victim, and over $2 million to Woodward for damage to his property.
Gatluak's family will be compensated with 51 head of cattle.
 


Bryant’s widow sues helicopter company over fatal crash

Updated 24 February 2020

Bryant’s widow sues helicopter company over fatal crash

  • The suit was filed on the same day that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven crash victims were memorialized in a public ceremony at the Staples Center
  • The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters, Island Express Holding Corp. and the estate of the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, who was among the victims

LOS ANGELES: Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa filed a lawsuit on Monday against the operators of the helicopter that crashed on January 26, killing the NBA icon and eight others.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on the same day that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven crash victims were memorialized in a public ceremony at the Staples Center.
The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters, Island Express Holding Corp. and the estate of the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, who was among the victims.
Gianna Bryant’s basketball teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Altobelli’s parents John and Keri, Payton’s mother Sarah and basketball coach Christina Mauser were also killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the exact cause of the crash, although preliminary findings showed no sign of mechanical failure.
Monday’s lawsuit faults the company for allowing the helicopter to fly in “heavy fog and low clouds” that Sunday morning, conditions which prompted “law enforcement agencies and tour companies” to ground their helicopters.
“On information and belief, Island Express Helicopters Federal Aviation Administration operating certificate limited its pilots to flying only under visual flight rules,” the lawsuit says.
“The subject helicopter was not licensed or certified to be flown into instrument conditions. On information and belief, the pilot-in-command, Ara George Zobayan, was required to fly only in conditions that he could navigate visually.
“Ara George Zobayan attempted to maneuver the helicopter up and forward to clear the clouds, then entered a turn sending the helicopter into steep terrain at approximately 180 mph,” according to the suit. “Witnesses on the ground reported seeing the helicopter flying through a layer of clouds and fog before the helicopter crashed.”
The lawsuit notes that in 2015 Zobayan was cited by the FAA for violating the visual flight rules minimums by “flying into an airspace of reduced visibility from weather conditions.”
Island Express did not immediately comment on the suit, which seeks unspecified general, economic and punitive damages.