Desire Munyaneza

01.05.2016 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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facts

Désiré Munyaneza was born in 1966, the son of a wealthy Hutu shopkeeper in Butare. He was running the town’s main general store when the genocide in Rwanda began in April 1994.

According to a report of the organization “African Rights”, Munyaneza was known as a political extremist even before April 1994. He was said to have formed close working relationships with the principal military officers and local government officials in charge of the genocide in Butare. During the 100 days of killings, he distinguished himself by virtue of his energy and dedication to the policy of the massacres, and the efficiency of his operations.

According to the same report, one of Munyaneza’s responsibilities was the surveillance of a network of roadblocks set up throughout the town of Butare, manned by militiamen wielding machetes, axes, nail-studded clubs and other instruments. Anyone who was identified as a Tutsi was killed on the spot, or taken away and assassinated elsewhere.

Furthermore Munyaneza was accused of having played a very significant role in rape and sexual violence – having personally raped many women and girls and having encouraged the militia under his command to do the same.

Munyaneza was also blamed by witnesses and survivors for abducting Tutsis, with the help of soldiers, from the University Hospital.

In 1997, Munyaneza fled to Canada carrying a fake Cameroon passport. He immediately filed a refugee claim insisting that, because he was a Hutu, he would be killed if he was sent back to Rwanda.

Three years later, the Immigration and Refugee Board rejected his claim, largely on the testimony of an RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) war crimes investigator who linked Mr. Munyaneza to the Rwandan massacre. The Immigration and Refugee Board panel found that there were reasons to believe he had participated in crimes against humanity. According to Art 1F of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a person is excluded from asylum if there are serious reasons to believe that he or she has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, a crime against humanity or has committed an offence against the purposes and the principles of the United Nations.

Munyaneza was living in Toronto when he was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on 19 October 2005.

legal procedure

Munyaneza was living in Toronto when he was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on 19 October 2005.

The RCMP said the arrest followed a five-year investigation by the war crimes unit that included interviews with many witnesses in Rwanda, Europe and Canada.

Désiré Munyaneza faced seven charges under the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act, including two counts of genocide, two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. The indictment accused him of committing murder, psychological terror, physical attacks and sexual violence with intent to wiping out the Tutsi.

The Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act was adopted in 2000 to implement Canada’s obligations with respect to the ICC and to provide for the prosecution of international crimes before Canadian courts. The arrest of Mr. Munyaneza represented the first time the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act had been used to criminally charge an individual. It was also the first time since the Supreme Court’s decision in the Finta case (see Trial Watch profile) of 1994 that Canadian authorities have used criminal rather than immigration remedies in the face of alleged international crimes.

A delegation of prosecutors, defence attorneys and a judge from Montreal arrived in Rwanda on 12 January 2007 for five weeks of hearings to gather testimony from 14 witnesses unable to travel to Canada. This evidence was introduced at the trial in Montreal, which began on 26 March 2007. More than 20 further witnesses testified.

According to press reports, Munyaneza, who had been in custody for two years, was severely beaten in prison in spring 2007. The prison warden severely curtailed Munyaneza’s contact with others, including his wife.

After a summer break, the trial resumed on 4 September 2007.

On 22 May 2009, the Quebec Superior Court declared Munyaneza guilty on all 7 charges against him, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The sentencing hearing was to be held on 15 and 16 September 2009.

On 29 October 2009, he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Munyenaza immediately filed an appeal against the verdict, alleging poorly defined charges, irregularities and misinterpretations by the trial judge and a lack of credibility in crown witnesses.

The appeals hearings took place in April 2013 before the Quebec Court of Appeal. On 7 May 2014 the Court announced its verdict, upholding the conviction of Munyaneza. Not only did the judges dismiss the defense arguments, it also confirmed the validity of Canada’s war-crimes legislation which was in question during the whole trial.

Munyaneza is expected to be eligible for parole at the earliest in 2030.

On Thursday 18 December 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada rejected to hear Munyaneza´s appeal. As is its custom, the Court did not give any reason for its decision.

spotlight

The Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act was adopted in 2000 to implement Canada’s obligations with respect to the ICC and to provide for the prosecution of international crimes before Canadian courts. The arrest of Mr. Munyaneza represents the first time the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act has been used to criminally charge an individual. It is also the first time since the Supreme Court’s decision in the Finta case (see Trial Watch profile) of 1994 that Canadian authorities have used criminal rather than immigration remedies in the face of alleged international crimes.

context

Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.

THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)

In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.

THE GACACA COURTS

In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.