Netherlands’ Unilateral Justice for Crimes Against Humanity

According to the BBC, the Netherlands is proceeding with a trial against former Democratic Republic of Congo Col. Sebastien Nzapali.

Nzapali was appropriately nicknamed “The King of the Beasts” and was in charge of a military base that trained death squads to terrorize opponents of then DR Congo president Mobutu Sese Seko.

When Nzapali was arrested in the Netherlands he was instead charged in that country with violating the 1994 United Nations Convention against torture. That convention gives individual states the explicit authority or pursue such prosecutions.

So why not turn Nzapali over to an international tribune? Well, rebels who took control of the country in 2002 wanted just such an international tribune, but — surprise! — the rest of the world wasn’t interested. According to Human Rights Watch,

The government became a state party to the Rome Convention for the International Criminal Court and also called for the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to try crimes against humanity committed in Congo before the date when the ICC came into being. Other actors, too, called for an international tribunal in the agreement reached as a conclusion to the inter-Congolese dialogue, but the international community showed little interest in this.

The international community failing to hold state actors responsible for crimes against humanity? Say it isn’t so!

Go get ’em Netherlands.

Sources:

Dutch hold Congo war crimes trial. The BBC, January 7, 2004.

Human Rights Watch 2003 World Report: Democratic Republic of Congo.

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