THE HAGUE – Dutch judges on Friday sentenced former Ethiopian official Eshetu Alemu to life imprisonment for war crimes committed in the 1970s under the rule of communist ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam, including the execution of 75 young prisoners.

Alemu was found guilty of ordering the killings in 1978 as a regional official.

“The fact that the majority of victims were children younger than 18 makes the crimes all the more cruel,” said presiding Judge Mariette Renckens, reading the verdict at the district court in The Hague.

In hearings held under Dutch universal jurisdiction laws, Alemu was convicted of all charges brought by prosecutors, including arbitrary detention, inhumane treatment, torture and mass murder.

Negus Gebeyehu, who was imprisonedin a camp under Alemu’s control and attended the hearing, said: “Justice has been done for Ethiopia.”

Alemu, 63, came to the Netherlands as an asylum seeker in 1990. He had pleaded not guilty.

An Ethiopian court had sentenced him to death in absentia in 2007 for his role in what was called the “Red Terror”, which Mengistu’s communist military junta conducted after the ousting of the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, in 1974.

Mengistu was found guilty in absentia of genocide in the same trial in 2007, where he and top members of his military government were accused of killing thousands during his 17-year rule. (Reuters)