Canada court sentences Rwanda war criminal to life imprisonment

[JURIST] The Superior Court of Quebec [official website] on Thursday sentenced Rwandan Hutu Desire Munyaneza [Trial Watch profile] to life imprisonment with eligibility for parole after 25 years for war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder]. Munyaneza was convicted [JURIST report] in May on seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act [text, PDF]. Munyaneza is the first person to have been charged under the act, which Canada ratified in 2000 in order to fulfill its obligations to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Munyaneza's conviction heavily emphasized Canada's obligation as a signatory to the Rome Statute [text, PDF] of the ICC to try crimes against humanity that would otherwise not be prosecuted. Munyaneza's defense lawyer is appealing the decision and the hearing is expected next year.

Munyaneza moved to Toronto in 1997 and was denied refugee status because Canadian officials suspected him of involvement in the Rwandan genocide. He was arrested [JURIST report] in 2005 by the Canadian Royal Mounted Police [official website] after a five-year investigation by its war crimes unit [official website] and the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website]. The trial, which was briefly postponed [JURIST report] after Munyaneza was beaten by a fellow prison inmate, lasted two years and included evidence from multiple nations. International legal observers expect Munyaneza's trial to set precedent for future war crimes litigation.

 

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