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Dutchman put on trial for Ethiopian war crimes in 1970s

October 24, 2017

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A Dutch citizen will go on trial in the Netherlands next Monday on charges he committed war crimes in Ethiopia in the 1970s.

The 63-year-old Dutchman, who was born in Ethiopia, is accused of the incarceration, torture and murder of opponents of former Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam in the late ‘70s.

As Mengistu’s representative in the Ethiopian province of Gojjam, the man is accused of ordering the killing of 75 young prisoners in 1978 and of being responsible for the incarceration and inhumane treatment of more than 200 people.

An Ethiopian court has sentenced the man to death, in absentia, for his role in what was called the “red terror”, which the communist military junta of Mengistu conducted after the ouster of the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, in 1974.

The Ethiopian sentence can’t be carried out in the Netherlands, making a new trial the best option to hold the man to account, the Dutch national prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

The trial in The Hague is based on an investigation by the International Crimes Team of the Dutch national police. It contains the statements of several Ethiopian witnesses, some of whom will be present at the trial, the prosecutor’s office said.

The accused has been held in provisional custody in the Netherlands since 2015.

Mengistu was found guilty in absentia of genocide in 2007, after he and top members of his military government were accused of killing thousands during his 17-year rule. Mengistu was ousted in 1991 and fled to Zimbabwe, where he still lives.

Reporting by Bart Meijer, editing by Larry King

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