In a fully packed courtroom in The Hague District Court, on 15 December 2017, the International Crimes Chamber convicted Eshetu Alemu for war crimes committed between 1978 and 1981 in Ethiopia. Absent at the judgment hearing, Alemu was sentenced to life imprisonment for these historical injustices. Five of his torture survivors received damages. During the short yet intense trial, Alemu testified at large, while victims came to the Netherlands to recount their ordeals. In many ways, it was a remarkable and unique case of universal jurisdiction, historical complementarity and transitional justice. In fact, the 10-day trial was one of the most intense, unique and historical trials I had attended in the past 15 years. In this Note from the Field, I discuss the forgotten episode of transitional justice in Ethiopia, outline the modern Dutch system of post-atrocity crime justice, unravel the substance of the case and feature the trial proceedings.
- Red Terror
- Eshetu Alemu