Man charged in Rwandan genocide
37-year-old Rwandan refugee in southern Ontario. is the second person to be charged under Canada's eight-year-old Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act
OTTAWA From Monday's Globe and Mail
Published on Monday, Nov. 09, 2009 12:00AM EST
Last updated on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 2:31AM EST
It took the Mounties six long years of detective work – some of it 11,000 kilometres outside Canada – to gather the evidence behind the war crimes charge they laid this weekend against a 37-year-old Rwandan refugee in southern Ontario.
The charge, announced Saturday, comes 5 months after Canada convicted another Rwandan of genocide, its first ever successful prosecution of someone for crimes against humanity.
In the latest case, Jacques Mungwarere, who has been living in Windsor, is the second person to be charged under Canada's eight-year-old Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
Federal bureaucrats refuse to explain how Mr. Mungwarere ended up in Canada, citing privacy law. But a government official said he obtained refugee status more than half a decade ago. He claimed asylum in 2001 and was granted it in 2002, the source said, noting the Rwandan never obtained Canadian citizenship.
“In all likelihood he would have entered Canada in 2000 or 2001 and made his refugee claim almost immediately,” the government source speculated.
The RCMP's War Crimes section alleges that Mr. Mungwarere committed “an act of genocide” in the Kibuye region of Rwanda during the 1994 mass killings that shocked the world. An estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives in the slaughter.
The RCMP said War Crimes Section staff made three trips to Rwanda and one to the United States in the course of gathering evidence, trying to piece together stories that are now 15 years old. Crucial to the case are what the Mounties call “exhaustive interviews” with witnesses in Rwanda, Canada and the United States.
“It's really important they be acknowledged. A lot of people are still scared for their lives as a result of what they witnessed in the 1990s,” RCMP Sergeant Marc Menard said of witnesses who gave testimony.
Canada has struggled in the past to convict former Nazis of genocide, but William Schabas, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, said Ottawa is doing an admirable job of going after other cases.
“Nobody's very good at this,” he said of the global record. “Everybody talks about it. It generates more heat than light in terms of results,” he said.
“[These cases] are very daunting because you're going to go before a judge or jury that is not familiar with the country. It's pretty unusual stuff.”
Prof. Schabas said it's hard to estimate how many potential Rwandan war criminals Ottawa might be examining.
“They've probably got a list of suspects that's between 10 and 25, but I am just guessing.”
It's unlikely, however, that more than a few will be successfully prosecuted given the daunting cost and time required in each case.
Ottawa has in the past come under criticism for not devoting enough funds to its war crimes unit, which has an annual budget of about $16-million. The trial that resulted in Canada's May, 2009, conviction of Dsir Munyaneza for his role in the Rwandan massacre cost $4-million, for example.
The Harper government declined to comment on Mr. Mungwarere's case, but a spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in general the immigration system is too vulnerable to abuse.
Alykhan Velshi, director of communications for Mr. Kenney, said this is why the Tories are planning to introduce reforms to the system. “All a war criminal, violent foreign criminal or terrorist needs to do is hop on a plane, come to Canada and say the magic word 'refugee.' ”