Eleven South African soldiers have been found guilty of assaulting a 17-year-old Congolese boy in a war zone.
“Three SA soldiers caught a male Congolese citizen, aged 17, who was suspected of stealing plastic basins and buckets belonging to SA soldiers and took him inside the military base where he was assaulted, sustaining a minor wound as a result,” SA National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesperson Mafi Mgobozi said on Monday.
The soldiers assaulted the boy on January 30 last year in Mbuji-Mayi in the Kasai Oriental province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Initially 16 soldiers were charged. They were part of the 5 SA infantry battalion deployed as part of a UN peacekeeping force.
Mgobozi said the 16 soldiers included a company commander, two platoon leaders, five non-commissioned officers and eight riflemen.
The trial ran from June 12 to 23 last year in Sake in the DRC. It was then moved to Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, where the unit is based. The trial ran from September 17 to 21 last year. The final session was from October 15 to November 2 2017.
“Even though no accused were convicted of contravening the provisions of the Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act, they were found guilty of common law assault. This case cleared the way for the future application of the act,” Mgobozi said.
Defence force chief General Solly Shoke welcomed the “speedy trial” and convictions.