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South Sudan judge orders rape victims to appear at trial

Juba, South Sudan | AFP |  Aid workers that were raped during an attack on their compound in South Sudan must testify in-person against a group of soldiers on trial for the assault, a judge ruled Friday.

The decision is the latest frustration for victims of the attack on the Terrain compound in the capital Juba, which occurred during fierce fighting in the city last year and cast a spotlight on atrocities committed by government troops during the country’s three-year civil war.

Twelve soldiers are charged in military court with looting and raping at least five foreign aid workers and murdering prominent journalist John Gatluak during the attack on the residence.

Judge Brigadier General Knight Brunney rejected a prosecutor’s request to have the foreign victims, who are no longer in South Sudan, give testimony outside the country or by video conference.

“The victims must come before the court personally and the court rejects all the requests to take the statement of the victims outside the country or video conference,” presiding Judge Knight Brunney said.

“All these requests are not leading the court to truth,” he added.

Prosecutor Mayiel Jiek told the court that it would be “very difficult” for the victims to travel to Juba to give testimony in the trial.

“Their coming to South Sudan and living will cost them a lot of money,” Jiek told the court.

The prosecution’s case has been plagued by setbacks since the trial started in May.

Earlier, the court had rejected the death certificate for Gatluak, meaning there is no legal proof that a body which an earlier witness had testified seeing in the compound on the night of the attack was his.

Two witnesses who testified on Friday — a commander of the forces around Terrain at the time of clashes and a military intelligence officer — admitted to commanding the suspects but denied the charges against them.

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