Life term urged in Canada trial of Rwandan militia boss
September 15, 2009
MONTREAL Canadian prosecutors Tuesday called for a Rwandan militia leader to be sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes and genocide committed during the massacres in Rwanda in 1994.
Desire Munyaneza, 42, was found guilty in May of seven counts arising out of the upheaval which wracked his country, in Canada's first war crimes trial.
“I can only stress the large number of murders that the defendant actively took part in, the pre-meditation, his deliberate proposals and his leading role,” prosecutor Pascale Ledoux told the court Tuesday.
She urged that Munyaneza should not be eligible for parole until he had served 25 years in jail.
Ledoux said all the victims were vulnerable civilians, and also called for another sentence of a minimum of seven years to be imposed for rape and sexual assault.
And in a third request, she called for a further two years in jail to be imposed for the pillages carried out in Rwandan villages. All the terms to run consecutively.
But Munyaneza's defense team asked that the period be reduced to 20 years. “Twenty years is just as dissuasive as 25,” said defense lawyer Richard Perras.
Judge Andre Denis said the sentence would be handed down on October 29.
Munyaneza showed no emotion during Tuesday's hearing, staring at the ceiling.
Munyaneza's trial heard he had set up and manned roadblocks in Butare in southern Rwanda during the 1994 genocide to select Tutsis and moderate Hutu as victims based on their ethnicity or allegiances.
A man imprisoned in Rwanda for his own role in the genocide testified that Munyaneza also orchestrated the massacre of 300 to 400 Tutsis in a church.
The trial, which opened in March 2007 was the first test of a Canadian law passed in October 2000 claiming “universal jurisdiction” over the world's most horrific crimes.
Munyaneza was arrested in Toronto in 2005 after arriving in Canada in 1997 and seeking asylum, which Canadian immigration officials rejected.
His two-year trial heard from 66 witnesses in Canada, Africa and Europe, including former Canadian general Romeo Dallaire, who headed a UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda, and American historian Alison des Forges, who studied Africa for much of her life.
According to the United Nations, some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were massacred in the 1994 genocide.
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