A military tribunal in South Sudan has found five Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers guilty of murdering civilians in Jonglei state, military officials said this week.
The soldiers could face the death penalty, SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said.
They were among more than 30 soldiers who have been arrested since August for violating the military code of conduct in Jonglei state, where rights groups have accused the South Sudanese army of committing serious human rights abuses, including rape and murder.
Two other soldiers were convicted of rape and 24 others were found guilty of unprofessional conduct, including being intoxicated while on duty, and were discharged from the army. Some of the soldiers convicted on lesser charges were given prison sentences ranging from one to five years, Aguer said.
Aguer said this was the first time the army has tried soldiers on charges of rape and murder.
The SPLA has a heavy presence in Jonglei state, where it has been fighting rebels led by David Yau Yau for more than a year.
In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch
said the SPLA "has committed serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law" since December last year in its battle against Yau Yau's rebels.
"SPLA soldiers have unlawfully killed at least 96 people, mostly civilians, from the Murle ethnic group during the conflict, and they have engaged in widespread looting of homes, clinics, schools and churches," the report says.
SPLA Information Director Malak Ayuen Ajol denied the allegations when the report was released, but Defense Minister Kuol Manyang vowed that military leaders would look into the accusations.