Dutch police have arrested a Rwandan immigrant and charged him with war crimes and torture for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide that tore apart his home country, a prosecution spokeswoman said Thursday.
Prosecutors identified the man as 38-year-old Joseph M. and said he was a brother of another man, identified only as Obed R., who has bee the Kibuye region,” the Dutch national prosecutor’s office said in a statement. “He is alleged to have ordered the killing of Tutsis that were dragged out of an ambulance.”
The suspect, who was arrested Monday in Amsterdam and briefly appeared before a court in The Hague on Thursday, will be tried in the Netherlands and faces a maximum life sentence if convicted, said prosecution spokeswoman Desiree Leppens.
Under Dutch law, foreigners believed to have committed war crimes overseas but now living here can be prosecuted in Dutch courts.
“The government wants to send a national and international signal that the Netherlands is not a safe haven for torturers and war criminals,” the prosecutor’s office said in its statement. “Also Dutch nationals who commit war crimes overseas can be prosecuted here.”
Alleged member of Interahamwe
M. is alleged to have been part of the feared Hutu extremist militias known as the Interahamwe, blamed for wide-scale slaughter in the slaying of more than half a million mainly ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda during 100 days in 2004.
The genocide claimed the lives of members of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority and politically moderate Hutus. The killings ended when Tutsi-led rebels, under President Paul Kagame, ousted the extremist government in July 1994.
M.’s court appearance Thursday was behind closed doors and he can be held for around 100 days before he has to make a public court appearance, Leppens said. It was not clear if M. made any comment at the hearing, during which his detention was prolonged for 14 days.
The same team of detectives who tracked down M. also have in the past year prosecuted two Dutch men for crimes committed overseas.
In June, Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced to eight years for trading guns for logging rights in Liberia and using his lumber company to smuggle weapons used by militias to commit atrocities against civilians in West Africa.
And in December, businessman Frans van Anraat was imprisoned for 15 years for selling chemicals to Saddam that were later used for deadly gas attacks on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja.