The Hague, 12 November 2008 (FH) - The Prosecutor of district court in The Hague, Hester Van Bruggen, has requested for life in prison against Joseph Mpambara, a former member of the interahamwe on trial since 13 October in The Netherlands for war crimes.

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The Netherlands, which has universal jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for violations of international humanitarian law, have already, in the past, prosecuted several foreign nationals, but it is the first time that a Rwandan is prosecuted.

The defendant is not prosecuted for genocide but for war crimes. The first instance chamber, the appeal chamber, then the Supreme Court of the Netherlands considered in 2007 and 2008, that the Dutch law required the existence of a relationship linking the country and that Dutch justice did not have jurisdiction to prosecuted foreigners for genocide committed on foreign territory and against foreign victims.

According to the Dutch prosecution, Mpambara would have murdered women and children in an ambulance and raped four women, before cutting their throats.

During his closing arguments, delivered on 11 November, the prosecutor mentioned the "shocking sadism" of the defendant. The militiaman, who is non-other than the brother of Obed Ruzindana, sentenced to 25 years in prison by the ICTR, would have, moreover, taken part in the massacre committed against the refugees of the Protestant church of Mugonero. During Tuesday's hearing, the prosecutor estimated that "the horror of the way in which the crimes were committed", and "the absence of regret of the defendant", requires the maximum sentence. She also wished that a conviction can be used as an example against all the forms of revisionism.

Arrested on 7 August 2006, Mpambara was a refugee in the Netherlands since 1998. The Dutch immigration and naturalization service refused his application for citizenship, saying that there existed presumptions that were too strong of his involvement in the 1994 genocide. The trial will continue next week with the closing arguments of the defence. The verdict should be known in the next weeks.

The Netherlands are part of the countries which, along with, notably, Belgium and France, agreed to try on their soil individuals prosecuted by the ICTR and transferred, within the framework of the completion strategy, to national courts. But the impossibility of prosecuting Rwandan individuals under the count of genocide in The Netherlands comes largely from this procedure. The Netherlands had had, in the past, to refuse to try Michel Bagaragaza, who has since been transferred to Arusha where he awaits to be tried by the ICTR.


© Hirondelle News Agency