THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A Dutch appeals court on Thursday sentenced a Hutu man to life imprisonment for crimes including the killings of hundreds of women and children at a church complex during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Joseph Mpambara had been convicted by a lower court in March 2009 of torture of ethnic Tutsis in 1994 and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, but was acquitted at the time of war crimes.
Both prosecutors and Mpambara, who had pleaded not guilty, appealed that ruling in a trial that took place under a law allowing the prosecution of suspected war criminals living in the Netherlands.
“The offences in this case can be considered as the most serious crimes tried by a Dutch judge since World War Two,” the appeals court said in convicting Mpambara.
Mpambara’s crimes included the murders of women and children, assaults and kidnapping in the central African nation, where 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days of slaughter by extremist Hutu militias.
The 43-year-old was convicted of involvement in the killings of “at least hundreds” of refugee Tutsis who had taken shelter in a Seventh Day Adventist church complex, by clubbing, hacking or shooting them.
The court ruled that Mpambara took part in the killing of two Tutsi women and their children who were hacked and beaten to death with machetes and clubs as they tried to flee in an ambulance.
He was also convicted of threatening a German doctor, his Tutsi wife and their baby boy at a roadblock. The court awarded them damages.
Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who represented victims in the case, called the verdicts “an expression of international community.”
“Even if you flee your own country and seek refuge or hide in another country we still live in one international community and he (Mpambara) can’t any more be a member of our society having committed these crimes.”
Dressed in jeans, white shirt and sneakers, Mpambara, who applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 1998 and was arrested in 2006, remained silent as the ruling was read out.
Additional reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; editing by Andrew Roche