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JUBA - 24 Oct 2013

31 soldiers arrested for rights abuses in Jonglei

At least 31 soldiers have been arrested since the beginning of disarmament in Pibor County for violations of the SPLA Code of Conduct, including one brigadier general, according to information released to Radio Tamazuj by the military.

The arrested soldiers face various charges of military indiscipline, violating the right of civilians, rape or murder. A number of the soldiers are still under investigation, while others have been tried, and others dismissed from the army.

Col. Philip Aguer, spokesman of the army of South Sudan, said on Monday that military justices have found two soldiers guilty of killing two women on 31 July while they were patrolling. The soldiers were found to have opened fire without orders to do so.

“Those who are convicted are sentenced to death by the Military Justice. They are forwarded to the president to approve the death penalty,” said Aguer.

“We cannot just shoot people because they have been found guilty – it has to be approved by the president. Secondly, there are legal procedural steps to be taken, so I cannot say exactly when the sentences will be implemented,” he added.

Aguer declined to name the soldiers who have been sentenced to death, saying that he could not remember their names and that the information was with the military justices.

There are another six soldiers who have been accused of rape in different places, not only in Pibor, and they are under investigation.

The highest ranking officer under arrest is Gen. James Otong, former commander of Pibor forces. He is under investigation for violation of the rules of engagement.

Remarking on the case, Aguer said “Of course if soldiers misbehave, it is the commanding officer that is in charge whether it takes direct or indirect command of what happen then the responsibility goes back to him.”

Elsewhere it has been reported that the number of soldiers investigated for rights abuses was significantly higher. Gurtong website, citing remarks made by Vice President James Wani Igga, said that 85 SPLA soldiers were investigated, 65 of whom were tried and 5 sentenced to prison terms.

Photo: SPLA soldiers and UN peacekeeper in Pibor town, 6 August 2013