Global Policy Forum

Dutch Court Sentences Ex-Army Colonel to

Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 8, 2004

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organisation, has said that the 30-month prison sentence a court in Rotterdam handed down on Wednesday to a former Congolese army officer would help make the Netherlands a "no-go" zone for perpetrators of serious human rights crimes. "We hope Dutch authorities will energetically follow up this precedent," the organisation said in a communiqué issued on Wednesday.

The officer, Sebastien Nzapali, served as a colonel in the army of the late President Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nzapali was convicted of torture committed in the republic in 1995 and 1996. However, the BBC reported, he was acquitted on charges of rape and received only half the sentence asked for by the prosecution. The BBC and Human Rights Watch said this was the first trial under the Netherlands' 1988 Implementation Act to the UN Convention against Torture.

Nzapali, known by his fellow officers as the "King of beasts", had sought asylum in the Netherlands in 1998. Human Rights Watch said the Dutch immigration authorities refused to grant him refugee status "out of concern over his involvement in serious human rights abuses". He was arrested in 2003 after three Congolese nations filed charges against him. Human Rights Watch said Dutch agents from the police, immigration, the National Intelligence Service, the Military Intelligence Service, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "took on the case". Investigators went to the DRCongo and worked in collaboration with local authorities and Congolese NGOs. Human Rights Watch also said a Dutch magistrate and Nzapali's lawyer went to Congo in February to help with the questioning of witnesses; "no witness was required to travel to the Netherlands".

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