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In Canada’s first prosecution under the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act, Désiré Munyaneza was convicted in 2009 for his involvement in the Rwandan genocide. Québec Superior Court Judge André Denis found Munyaneza guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced him to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.
In 1997, Désiré Munyaneza fled to Canada and after repeated denials of his application for refugee status, the RCMP arrested him in Toronto in 2005. The Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act used to charge Munyaneza was created in 2000 as part of Canada’s implementation of the treaty of the International Criminal Court. During the trial, witnesses described Munyaneza as a militia commander who ordered killings and carried them out himself. Several women testified that he raped them. His conviction represented the first step in Canada’s efforts to fulfill its obligation to provide accountability and deterrence for these heinous crimes.
Munyaneza appealed but the Québec Court of Appeal upheld his conviction in May 2014. CCIJ, together with Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR), intervened in the appeal and provided analysis on the issue of whether the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act can apply to the 1994 Rwandan genocide even though the Act did not become law in Canada until 2000. The Court of Appeal cited the submissions of CCIJ and CLAIHR in finding that the Act’s retrospective application is proper because international law imposed individual criminal responsibility at the time of the acts. Daily summaries of the proceedings before the Court of Appeal are available from GREPIH, the UQAM student group that monitored the Munyaneza trial.
To review major developments from the trial, visit the GREPIH website
For more background information, visit TRIAL
Globe and Mail web-exclusive commentary, 21 May 2009, by Jayne Stoyles and Richard Dicker