The Supreme Court in Juba is unable to examine the appeals by the victims of the Terrain Hotel attack because “the case file is missing”, human rights groups have said.
Amidst the renewed conflict in July 2016, government soldiers attacked the hotel that was adjacent to Checkpoint where Opposition forces and the army clashed for about three days.
A local journalist was murdered, at least five foreign aid workers raped, and the hotel looted and ransacked.
Due to international pressure, the government set up a military court to try the accused soldiers, 11 of them.
Two years after the commission of the crimes, 10 soldiers were convicted for the sexual assault and rape of the aid workers, and the murder of Journalist John Gatluak during the attack.
But the rape and sexual assault survivors and the family of Gatluak appealed the court’s decision to award $4,000 to each of the rape and sexual assault survivors, and 51 cows to the journalist’s family.
They contended that the compensation was not commensurate with the crimes, and the physical and mental trauma they have endured since the attack.
The convicted soldiers also filed their intention to appeal the conviction.
The case file was then sent to the Office of the President.
However, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Legal Action Worldwide say in a statement released on Friday that the case file has not been seen since then, making it impossible for the Supreme Court to move forward with appeals by the victims and convicts.
“It is outrageous that a year after the conviction the parties’ appeals cannot be heard because of the missing case file,” said Antonia Mulvey, founder and executive director of Legal Action Worldwide.
“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.”
The groups say authorities must ensure the victims get their right to a remedy and the accused their right to a fair trial, including the right to appeal and the right to be tried, or to obtain justice without undue delay.
“The victims of this heinous attack, and their families, have suffered so much already – it’s unfathomably cruel to prolong their quest for justice,” added Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
The missing case file, which included the judgment, was sent to President Salva Kiir for confirmation before the judgment was delivered on September 6, 2018.
The file has not been seen since. UN officials and diplomats strongly suspect the file was lost in the Office of the President. For the case to proceed on appeal, a complete record of the case is required.
The Office of the President is yet to comment on the matter.
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