Friday, May 22, 2009

Canada-Rwanda: Canadian Judge Convicts Rwandan in Genocide

By IAN AUSTEN
The New York Times
May 22, 2009

OTTAWA — A Rwandan who entered Canada more than a decade ago claiming to be a refugee was convicted Friday on seven charges related to the 1994 genocide.

The conviction was the first under a Canadian war crimes law introduced nine years ago and followed an unusually complex, two-year trial that involved hearings in Africa and Europe as well as Montreal. The accused, Désiré Munyaneza, a Hutu and the son of a wealthy businessman, was 27 at the time of the massacres. Justice André Denis of the Quebec Superior Court found him guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for his participation in murders and rapes in the Butare region.

“The accused’s criminal intent was demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt, as was his culpable violence,” Justice Denis wrote in his 210-page decision, adding that Mr. Munyaneza “generally treated Tutsi inhumanely and degradingly.”

The judge said that while he found prosecution witnesses, some of whom testified behind closed doors for their security, to be generally credible, he had a difficult time believing any of the defense witnesses.

The mass killing began in April 1994 when Hutu extremists mobilized the majority population in Rwanda, a tiny central African country, to root out and kill Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The extent of the killing — which took an estimated 800,000 lives — and the sheer number of killers involved have made prosecutions difficult.

An international criminal tribunal, backed by the United Nations and based in Tanzania, has convicted about 30 people and acquitted 6. The court, which has been criticized at times for its slow pace, was meant to supplement Rwanda’s own justice system by focusing on prominent figures, including politicians, journalists and members of the clergy.

The Montreal trial was aided by a continuing case at the international tribunal, where six people are being tried for massacres in the Butare region. The defendants include a government minister and her son, both accused of leading efforts to murder and rape Tutsi. Mr. Munyaneza was described in his trial as a militia leader who worked with them.

In 1997 — the year the international tribunal began its work — Mr. Munyaneza arrived in Toronto seeking refugee status, a claim that was ultimately turned down. Accusations against him led to an investigation, and he was arrested in 2005 at his Toronto home.

Under the war crimes law, which allows Canada to prosecute residents for acts they committed in other countries, Mr. Munyaneza faces up to life in prison. Mr. Munyaneza, who is now 42 and the father of two children, is to be sentenced on Sept. 9.

Related Materials:
Quebec court convicts Munyaneza of war crimes in Rwanda - CBC News

Canadian court convicts Rwandan refugee Munyaneza of war crimes - CJAD

Rwanda: Canadian Court to Pass First Genocide Verdict This Week

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