JUBA – A military court in South Sudan on Thursday sentenced 24 soldiers to various jail terms over rape and looting.

The soldiers from the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) received jail terms that range from two to 14 years after being found guilty of rape, looting and selling military equipment.

The soldiers were also dismissed from the military.

The soldiers were arrested four months ago following public outcry over increasing cases of sexual violence and looting in the Southern border town of Yei.

Some 35 SSPDF soldiers appeared in a special military court in Yei last month, but 11 were set free due to lack of evidence.

“What we have done today is an indication that the SSPDF do not condone crimes against civilians and the government,” SSPDF Spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang told reporters after the court session.

Presiding Judge Joseph James Mayen said the soldiers can appeal their sentences within 14 days.

Human rights campaigners have on several occasions accused South Sudan’s army of committing atrocities during the civil war that erupted in late 2013.

Army chief Johnson Juma Okot said the SSPDF is committed to fighting criminality in the army.

“Rape of girls and looting by soldiers is something we can never tolerate anymore as SSPDF. So, we want to get rid of any soldier involved in criminal activities,” Okot said. Xinhua

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