War Crimes and Punishment: The Terrain Compound Attack and Military Accountability in South Sudan, 2016–18

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On 11 July 2016, at the end of four days of fighting between government and opposition forces in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, government soldiers stormed the Terrain ‘Hotel’, a residential compound that was home to South Sudanese and East African and Western expatriates. There they began a violent rampage of systematic looting, rape, gang rape, and abuse—including one killing—of the civilians sheltering in the compound.

The Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) subsequently initiated a court martial to hold per-petrators of the attack accountable. The trial and convictions that followed marked a rare example of SPLA soldiers being held to account for crimes committed against civilians in the context of war. An examination of the court martial and the events surrounding it provides some insight into the dynamics of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) government since the civil war resumed in July 2016, and reveals a degree of judicial capacity and political will within the government to hold its uni-formed soldiers accountable for violence against civilians, with direct implications for the country’s present transitional phase towards peace.

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HSBA Small Arms Survey

The Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan is a multi-year research project administered by the Small Arms Survey, a global centre of excellence located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. It has been developed in cooperation with the Canadian government, UNMIS, UNDP, and NGO partners. Through the active generation and dissemination of timely empirical research, the project supports violence reduction initiatives, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, incentive schemes for civilian arms collections and security sector reform and arms control interventions across Sudan.

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