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Refugee convicted of war crimes


MONTREAL—Lawyers for Desire Munyaneza say they will appeal a Quebec judge’s verdict finding their client guilty of seven charges stemming from war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Denis said he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Munyaneza was guilty of all the charges against him, making Munyaneza the first person to be found guilty under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

“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.”

In a detailed 210-page judgment, Denis said he found the prosecution witnesses to be believable, but had a difficult time believing any of the defence witnesses.

Munyaneza, a 42-year-old father of two, faced seven charges related to genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres and rapes near Butare, Rwanda.

The incidents date back to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide during which 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.

He now faces life in prison, and returns to court Sept. 9 to determine how much of that prison sentence will remain after time served has been considered.

The two-year trial involved hearings in Canada, Europe,

and Africa.

The judge heard testimony from 66 Crown and defence witnesses—testimony that often was conducted behind closed doors as witnesses feared reprisal at home in Rwanda.

The complex court case also involved mountains of paperwork.

The Crown and defence filed 600-page written final arguments while another 30,000 pages of annexed material and 16,000 pages of court transcripts also were filed.

While Rwandans have seen others prosecuted for their roles in the genocide, the Munyaneza decision was expected to draw widespread interest as he is the son of a wealthy businessman.

Munyaneza arrived in Toronto in 1997 seeking refugee status, but his claim was rejected.

He was arrested in October, 2005 at his Toronto home after a lengthy RCMP investigation.

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