A Dutch appeals court on Thursday sentenced Joseph Mpambara [Hague Justice Portal profile] to life in prison for his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Mpambara, a former member of extremist Hutu militia Interahamwe [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Tutsis, was convicted [JURIST report] of torture in 2009 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Dutch national court in agreement with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive]. He was arrested in the Netherlands and accused of attacking a church, kidnapping, torture, and the murder of two mothers and their four children in Rwanda. The appeals court upheld [AP report] his conviction and convicted him on additional war crimes charges. Mpambara's brother, Georges Rutaganda, former vice president of the Interahamwe, was convicted of genocide by the ICTR. He died last year [ICTR press release] in prison.
The Dutch court decision comes weeks after the ICTR convicted [JURIST report] former Rwandan army chief Augustin Bizimungu and three others involved the Rwandan genocide. In December, the ICTR sentenced [JURIST report] former Rwandan Armed Forces lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana to life imprisonment after convicting him on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The court found Hategekimana guilty of three counts of genocide stemming from his involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, specifically in the massacre of civilian Tutsis in the Rwandan town of Butare. Three months ago, the ICTR removed US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive] from his position as an ICTR defense lawyer. The appeals chamber said the dismissal was due to Erlinder's failure to appear at a tribunal and cited Rule 46 of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence [text] which allows the court to impose sanctions for lawyer's misconduct. Erlinder argues [JURIST op-ed] the dismissal was part of a wider history of institutional bias that has helped the Rwandan government label him and other defense counsel "genocide deniers" subject to official threats of arrest and even death.