Canada court finds Rwandan guilty of war crimes

Fri May 22, 2009 3:15pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian court found a Rwandan man guilty on Friday of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, making him the first person convicted under Canada's war crimes act.

Desire Munyaneza, 42, was convicted by a Superior Court judge in the province of Quebec on seven charges that stemmed from the part he played in killings and rapes in the Rwandan region of Butare.

In 1994, extremists from Rwanda's Hutu majority hacked and shot to death 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.

"The evidence showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused participated in the hunting down of Tutsi ... Desire Munyaneza was at the forefront of the genocidal movement," Judge Andre Denis wrote in his judgment.

Munyaneza faces life imprisonment. His lawyer has already made clear he will appeal.

During the two-year trial, Denis heard from dozens of witnesses, some of whom identified Munyaneza as the man responsible for dozens of killings and rapes.

"The accused's criminal intent was demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt, as was his culpable violence," Denis wrote.

"Desire Munyaneza specifically intended to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group in Butare and in the surrounding communes. To that end, he intentionally killed Tutsi, seriously wounded others, caused them serious physical and mental harm, sexually assaulted many Tutsi women and generally treated Tutsi inhumanely and degradingly."

Munyaneza arrived in Canada in 1997 and unsuccessfully tried to claim refugee status. Police subsequently launched an investigation and arrested him in 2005.

The case was the first prosecuted under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which was passed in 2000.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)

 
<p>A Rwandan genocide survivor is seen in this February 2004 file picture looking out of the door of a church full with human skulls and bones in the town of Ntarama. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>