The Netherlands difficulties to try the Rwandan genocide

19 November 2007 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

On December 3, the district court of The Hague will hear, on appeal, the request of trial for genocide in the Netherlands of Rwandan Joseph Mpambara, which is supported by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) but at the request of a Dutch prosecutor. In the first instance, the court at The Hague decided, on July 24, that was no basis in national law for a genocide prosecution. The case is a sensitive one for the ICTR, which is working to transfer its cases to national jurisdictions besides Rwanda as part of its completion strategy.

Before his arrest in August 2006, Mpambara was living in the Netherlands as a refugee. Mpambara is the brother of Obed Ruzindana, an important merchant sentenced by the ICTR to 25 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity in 1999. Mpambara was on file with the justice department as a possible genocide suspect, but the ICTR never showed any interest in him. The initiative came from the Dutch general prosecutor, who went to Arusha to ask his ICTR counterpart to allow the Netherlands to prosecute Mpambara. The Dutch prosecutor stressed that the UN tribunal had primary jurisdiction and that he consequently could not prosecute Mpambara without its backing. Not having indicted Mpambara, the ICTR prosecutor accepted to pass this unusual request on to the Netherlands.

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