Ethiopian war criminal caught in Amstelveen

File photo showing a police arrestPicture: Wikimedia Commons/Lionel Allorge

A 61 year old man was arrested in Amstelveen on suspicion of committing war crimes in Ethiopia in the late 70's as a representative of the former Derg regime. According to the Public Prosecutor, the man is accused of the imprisonment, torture and murder of opponents of the former regime. The man has been living in the Netherlands for some time and has received Dutch nationality.

In 1974 Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by a group of soldiers from the Derg. After an internal power struggle Colonel Mengistu seized power. Under the Mengistu regime Ethiopia suffered a period of repression and conflict that cost the lives of many thousands of people. The reign of terror was accompanied by widespread arrests, torture and killings committed by the government.

In the 90's international media reported about the possible involvement of this suspect in crimes against Ethiopians. In Ethiopia the man received sentences, in absentia, of life in prison and death for the murder of alleged opponents of the regime.

For the Dutch criminal investigation against this man, the police have questioned a number of witnesses, mostly Ethiopians now living abroad. According to the Prosecutor, these witnesses have made statements about crimes this man allegedly committed in the Gojjam province as a representative of the military dictatorship. The Dutch investigative authorities also received part of the criminal file that led to the suspect's death sentence from the Ethiopian authorities. The investigation by the International Crimes Team is focusing on specific, individual cases of imprisonment, torture and murder in the prison camps of Debre Marcos and Metekel. According to the Prosecutor, dozens of prisoners were murdered and their bodies dumped in a mass grave in 1978 on the orders of the suspect.

The man was arrested on September 29th and has been in custody since then. During the search of his home the police found and confiscated, among other things, military and other identity documents, including two diplomatic passports. On Thursday the court in The Hague remanded the man into custody for 90 days.