Last week, the Hague District Court ruled on the case of Joseph Mpambara, a Rwandan Hutu allegedly associated with the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The court found Mpambara guilty for the deaths of two Tutsi mothers and their children as well as for the torture of a German doctor, his Tutsi wife and their 2 month-old son. Mpambara was acquitted of charges that he was involved in the massacre of hundreds of Tutsis who had fled to a church, for the rape of four women, and for the subsequent murder of one of them.
The court found sufficient evidence that Mpambara had called for two Tutsi women and at least four of their children to be dragged from an ambulance and brutally slaughtered as they were fleeing violence. However, the court was not able to find sufficient evidence in the testimony of five witnesses that linked Mpambara to the massacre of hundreds of Tutsis seeking refuge in a Seventh-Day Adventist church in April 1994. Only one witness linked Mpambara to the rapes, which is insufficient under Dutch law.
Mpambara was not convicted of war crimes because the court reasoned that the killings of the Tutsis and the torture of the German-Tutsi family was not part of the war between Rwanda and Tutsi rebels. The war, which took place between April and July 1994, led to the killing of nearly 500,000 people by Hutu militias.
Mpambara had sought asylum in the Netherlands, giving rise to the criminal investigation against him. Dutch law holds residents liable for war crimes and torture committed in other countries. Mpambara was sentenced to 20 years, but the court stated that this sentence did not “do justice to the seriousness of [his] crimes.”
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