Your download of the UJAR has started. Please fill out the following form to stay informed about universal jurisdiction and our work!


Wenceslas Munyeshyaka

07.05.2016 ( Last modified: 15.07.2020 )
TRIAL International reminds its visitors that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was born on 30 July 1958 to Félicité Mukarukaka a Tutsi and Gabriel Ngiruwonsanga, a Hutu, in Ngoma commune of Butare prefecture in Rwanda

Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, was former head of the Sainte-Famille parish in Kigali. Since 2001, he was a priest for the parishes of Gisors and the Epte Valley in France.

A legal enquiry was opened against Munyeshyaka in 1995 after a complaint was lodged, for “complicity in torture and inhumane or degrading treatment”. Witnesses gave account in precise detail of the massive executions which allegedly took place on the 17th and 22nd April 1994 in the Holy Family parish in Kigali where Munyeshyaka was parish priest at the time.

Between April and May 1994, Father Munyeshyaka was alleged to have contributed to the genocide being carried out against the Tutsi by the Hutu militias and members of the Rwandan armed forces. He was alleged to have repeatedly participated in the selection of Tutsi refugees to be murdered, to have left them to die of thirst, to have reported to the authorities those who tried to help them and to have raped several women.

In July 1995, proceedings were instituted against Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Rwandan citizen, by persons entitled to act on behalf of the victims.


legal procedure

In July 1995, proceedings were instituted against Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Rwandan citizen, by persons entitled to act on behalf of the victims.


On 25 July 1995, an official investigation was opened up against Munyeshyaka by an investigating judge for “genocide, crimes against humanity and participation in a group already created for, or having as intent the planning of these crimes, on the basis of the principle of universal jurisdiction as provided for by the 1984 New York Convention against Torture”.

On 20 March 1996, the investigation chamber of the Court of appeal in Nîmes (Chambre de l’instruction de la Cour d’appel de Nîmes) pronounced that France did not have jurisdiction over crimes of genocide committed abroad, by a foreigner, against foreigners.

However, soon after the Statute of the ICTR had come into force under French domestic law, French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), on 6 January, 1998, ordained that the proceedings instituted in 1995 against Munyeshyaka be reopened.

The case was sent back to the investigation chamber of the Court of appeal in Paris which, on 23 June 1999, extended the scope of competence of the French judge to cover genocide and crimes against humanity.

In September and October 2000, an investigating judge requested that two international rogatory letters be held in Rwanda in order to proceed with the hearing of testimony from around seventy witnesses. By 2004 none of international rogatory letters had been conducted.

The slowness of the proceedings led to France being condemned on 8 June 2004 by the European Court of Human Rights, which had taken up the case in 1999 on the request of Yvonne Mutimura, one of the plaintiffs in the case.


In December 2005, Rwanda announced that an international arrest warrant had been issued against Munyeshyaka.

In October 2006, Munyeshyaka was tried in absentia before the Military Court in Kigali as an accomplice of General Laurent Munyakazi who had been in charge of the security of the city of Kigali during the genocide. The prosecution requested the death sentence against Munyakazi. According to Rwandan law, civilians accused of complicity with members of the army are tried before a military tribunal.

On 16 November 2006, the Military Court sentenced Munyeshyaka in absentia to life imprisonment.


On 21 June 2007, the ICTR issued arrest warrants against Munyeshyaka and against the former prefect of Gikongoro Laurent Bucyibaruta, who was also exiled in France.

On 20 July 2007, both men were arrested and brought before the office of the State Prosecutor who sent the case to the investigation arm of the Investigation Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris. This court ruled that the ICTR arrest warrant was imprecise, especially regarding the French law on the presumption of innocence and therefore ordered the immediate release of both men.

The State prosecutor did not appeal this decision with the result that both men remained under judicial supervision in the framework of the proceedings already opened for “genocide and crimes against humanity”.

The ICTR issued a second revised arrest warrant on 13 August 2007 and the two men were again arrested by the French authorities on 5 September.

On 26 September, The Court of Appeal in Paris requested further information from the ICTR stating that it could not make a decision on the basis of the information provided.

On 20 November 2007, the ICTR decided to decline jurisdiction over this case in favour of the French judicial authorities.


On 20 February 2008, the French authorities agreed to try Munyeshyaka and Bucyibaruta in France. Both suspects were arrested, and subsequently released under judicial supervision for the time of the investigation.

On 19 August 2014, it was confirmed in the report by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, that the judicial inquiry into Munyeshyaka, led by France, was in its final phase.

In April 2015, the investigation of the case was completed. On 2 October 2015, the investigating judge ordered the dismissal of the case, in accordance with the Prosecutor’s request. The judge explained that although Munyeshyaka had manifested radical opinions and had maintained friendly relations with the military and militias, this would not suffice to establish his participation to the crimes committed by the militias.

On 8 November 2017, the Investigation Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris postponed the appeal hearing following the dismissal of the case issued on 2 October 2015 by the investigative judges to 31st January 2018 in order to review the petitions handed over by the civil parties.

On 21 June 2018, Investigation Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris confirmed the dismissal of the case. Civil parties announced their intention to appeal this decision.

On 30 October 2019, the French Supreme Court rejected the appeal from the civil parties. Wenceslas Munyeshyaka is definitively cleared of all charges.


The ICTR referred Munyeshyaka’s case to the French justice in 2007. France and Rwanda are the only two countries to which the ICTR has delegated cases in the framework of its completion strategy. The UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in charge of the residual mechanism of the ICTR is responsible for the monitoring of all cases delegated by the tribunal to domestic courts.


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.


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.


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 Kagameannounced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.


©2021 trialinternational.org | All rights reserved | Privacy Policy | Statutes | Designed and Produced by ACW