Rwandan Hutu first to be convicted under Canada’s war crimes act

Rwandan Hutu militant Desire Munyaneza was convicted by the Superior Court of Quebec May 22 on seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under Canada’s new Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. 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).

The court’s decision heavily emphasized the nation’s obligation as a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC to prosecute crimes against humanity when they would otherwise go unprosecuted. The decision also focused heavily on the macabre nature of the crimes committed:

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 moved to Toronto in 1997. Upon his arrival, he sought refugee status in Canada due to his belief that persecution at the hands of Rwanda’s Tutsis would be certain were he to return to Rwanda. His request for refugee status was denied due to his suspected involvement in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He was initially charged under the war crimes act in October 2005. The trial, which was briefly postponed after Munyaneza was beaten by a fellow inmate in prison, lasted two years and spanned multiple nations. (Jurist, May 22)

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