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Rwandan gets life for war crimes

Associated Press / October 30, 2009

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MONTREAL - A Rwandan man who was the first person convicted under a law allowing people in Canada to be tried for war crimes committed abroad has been sentenced to life in prison.

Desire Munyaneza, 42, was found guilty in May of seven charges, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for his role in the 1994 rape and slaughter of at least 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

He will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.

“The accused, an educated man from a privileged background, chose to kill, rape, and pillage in the name of his ethnic group’s supremacy,’’ Justice Andre Denis said as he issued the sentence. “The sentence I am imposing is severe because the law considers the crimes committed by the accused to be the worst in existence.’’

Munyaneza, a Hutu, was convicted of trying to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group in Butare and the surrounding area.

He was the first defendant to be tried under Canada’s seven-year-old War Crimes Act.

Munyaneza was living in Toronto and was arrested in October 2005 after reports that he had been seen were circulated in Canada’s Rwandan community.

At the time, African Rights, a Rwandan group that has documented the genocide, linked Munyaneza to key figures indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

During his trial, more than 66 witnesses testified in Montreal and in depositions in Rwanda, France, and Kenya, often behind closed doors to protect their identities.