The Netherlands may soon start trying Genocide crimes following the approval of a bill by the Dutch Parliament that will extend the possibility of detecting and prosecuting the crime.
The bill – which is about to go to the Dutch Senate – allows the Netherlands to better address Genocide and war crimes suspects retroactively and to work closer with international criminal courts.
The proposed bill stipulates that cases dating as far back as 1966 could be dealt with.
According to the head of the Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unity, Jean Bosco Siboyintore, Rwanda welcomes the Dutch parliament’s approval to introduce a Genocide Law in their domestic legislation.
He recognised that the Netherlands is well known for its non-tolerance of the culture of impunity.
“The Dutch move should be emulated by other European countries. Where there is no law repressing the crime of Genocide, or where there is a Genocide law that does not match with the crimes committed against Tutsis in 1994, then such law should be amended in order to have a retroactive legal binding force against suspects living in their territories,” said Siboyintore.
Currently, the Netherlands has sufficient jurisdiction to prosecute foreigners suspected of international crimes, including Genocide, but the law applies only to crimes committed after October 1, 2003, leaving a leeway for fugitives of the 1994 Genocide.
This loophole has attracted scores of people accused of serious atrocities to settle in the Netherlands in the belief that they would be protected from legal action.
“We have so far identified more than 30 Rwandan Genocide suspects living in the Netherlands, we are in touch with our Dutch counterparts and once this bill becomes law, these fugitives will be prosecuted with the deserved crime they are suspected to have committed in 1994,” said Siboyintore.
Presenting the amendment, former Dutch Minister of Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, told the Dutch parliament that it was a shame for their country to be a safe haven for Genocide suspects.
“It is unacceptable that an alien who is otherwise guilty of Genocide is immune from prosecution, because the Netherlands, before the time of the crime, had no jurisdiction. This sends an undesirable signal to victims and their families,” said Ballin.
Under the new law, any accused person who is on Dutch territory can be arrested, including suspects on transit at Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam.
The new bill also regulates the extradition of Genocide and war crimes suspects to other countries and international courts.
This is not the first time that a European country amends its laws to facilitate the prosecution of Genocide fugitives.
The UK had a similar situation where courts in England and Wales did not have jurisdiction to try acts of Genocide committed before September 1, 2001.