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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 09:52 GMT
Dutch hold Congo war crimes trial
Congolese man carries young child
Millions have died in the conflict in DR Congo
A former Congolese colonel has gone on trial in the Netherlands charged with crimes against humanity in DR Congo during the civil war in the 1990s.

Sebastien Nzapali, known as "the king of the beasts", is charged with torture, rape and cruel treatment.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says it is the first case of war crimes committed in another country to reach a Dutch national court.

She says it puts the Netherlands on a similar legal footing as Belgium.

There, national courts have jurisdiction over war crimes committed abroad.

Sebastien Nzapali was a colonel in DR Congo's civil guard, under the country's former leader Mobutu Sese Seko.

Our correspondent says this trial is an important one for the Netherlands, which is considered the world's legal capital, as host to a number of international courts.

Prosecutors hope to send out a signal that there is no refuge for war criminals in the Netherlands. They set up a special genocide and war crimes team five years ago, to seek out suspects hiding in the country and try them under Dutch law.

Sebastien Nzapali applied for political asylum in 1998. But the Dutch authorities only granted him temporary status because they suspected he was guilty of war crimes.

He was arrested after three Congolese nationals in Congo filed charges against him.

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Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
23 Aug 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Democratic Republic of Congo
04 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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