Mpambara back in the dock

30 March 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

It is winter, four years after the Rwandan genocide. Joseph Mpambara arrives at Schiphol airport, carrying a false Ugandan passport. He tells Dutch Immigration officials that he fled his village Mugonero in 1994. He says he feared for his life as Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels massacred Hutus. Later, Mpambara feared persecution because he had testified in defence of his brother at the ICTR.

Mpambara was never granted asylum. Instead, Dutch prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into his role in the genocide. He was eventually arrested in Amsterdam in 2006 and put on trial in 2008. This week, he is back in the courtroom.

This time, a panel of three judges in The Hague will consider his appeal against his 20-year prison sentence for torturing a German doctor and his Rwandan wife and child.

The 42-year-old Mpambara, casually dressed in a dark blue striped shirt and blue jeans, says he has nothing to do with the atrocities. He addressed the three judges in French and Dutch, using two Rwandan translators also. Opposite him in the courtroom are two prosecutors. Mpambara asssures the judges he will not answer their questions in the coming weeks.

Mpambara is the first Rwandan in the dock in the Netherlands for crimes relating to the Rwandan massacres. The Court of First Instance in The Hague in March 2009 found him guilty of ordering the murder of several Tutsi refugees.

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