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Top UN official commends rape convictions in South Sudan

November 4, 2020 (NEW YORK) – Steps taken by South Sudan’s army to bring perpetrators of rape to justice underscores governance commitment to zero tolerance, a top United Nations official said.

South Sudanese soldiers wait for their verdict at the military court in Juba, South Sudan, on September 6, 2018. (AFP photo)

In a statement issued Monday, Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, welcomed courts martial verdicts which resulted in rape convictions for 13 members of the South Sudanese army (SSPDF).

The military trials, held in Yei River County and the convictions last month, were part of a process that saw 26 soldiers sentenced for killing, looting and other offenses committed in 2019 and 2020.

“I also welcome the recent convictions in civilian courts in Kuajok and Wau of two SSPDF soldiers for gang rape and rape respectively of underage girls, one South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) officer for rape, and three members of the pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in opposition (SPLA-IO) for rape in Yambio and Wau court,” said Patten.

She added, “These verdicts not only send a message to perpetrators about the consequences of their actions, but also reaffirms the government commitment to a zero-tolerance policy for conflict-related sexual violence.”

The UN official also commended “the brave survivors who came forward to testify and seek justice”, further acknowledging the civil society’s critical roles in advocating for as well as supporting them.

“I also remind the authorities that as part of transitional justice and peace building processes, survivors have the right to a remedy, reparations and compensation”, stressed Patten.

South Sudan gained its independence from neighbouring Sudan in July 2011.

Meanwhile Patten said her office will continue to work with UN partners on the ground to ensure the government meets its commitments to address conflict-related sexual violence, in line with a communiqué signed in October 2014.

She further revealed that staff will also remain engaged on an action plan for the national army and police, aimed at strengthening prevention and ensuring prosecution for these crimes takes place in a manner that is transparent and sensitive to survivors.

South Sudan laws provide for protection of women and girls from sexual abuse and exploitation and gender-based violence, including rape, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.