Montreal, 14 September 2007 (FH) - Désiré Munyaneza, 41, a Rwandan refugee, has been for six months before the Superior Court of Quebec for his participation in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

1 min 51Approximate reading time

The defendant has been indicted on seven counts: two for genocide, two for crimes against humanity and three for war crimes. Since the opening of the trial, 26 March 2007, 27 witnesses have testified. On Monday, a doctor for MSF is awaited for the 175th day of the proceedings.

Twenty-four of them came from Rwanda to tell about the atrocities (rapes, summary removals and executions) they lived. Four other individuals, of which three "witness-experts" (Romeo Dallaire, who directed the peacekeepers at the time of the conflict, Alison Des Forges, a historian, and Andre Guichaoua, a sociologist) are awaited by the end of October.

Arrived in Canada in 1997 with a forged Cameroonian passport, Désiré Munyaneza, a former prosperous merchant from Butare (south-eastern Rwanda), had then asked for refugee status, fearing "to be persecuted because of his membership to the Hutu ethnicity".

The request was refused in 2000 by the Canadian immigration services, suspecting Mr. Munyaneza of having taken part in the genocide, which would have resulted in 800 000 victims between early April and July 1994.

At the end of five years of investigations carried out by the RCMP (federal police force), Munyaneza, who had been joined by his family, was arrested in October 2005 in Toronto (Ontario).

The prosecution, made possible by the law on crimes against humanity and war crimes that came into effect in October 2000, is led by three Crown prosecutors, Pascale Ledoux, Richard Roy and Alexis Gauthier. It is the first time that this law is used in Canada.

All three members of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, PPSC, the prosecutors represent the Attorney General of Canada (Minister of Justice). According to Richard Roy, "if voluntary manslaughter is proven, the judge will not have any discretion: life in prison will be required, at the minimum ". In Canada, such a sentence carries 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

To ensure his defence, Mr. Munyaneza is surrounded by three Canadian lawyers: Richard Perras, David Cohen and Mylène Dimitri, who was with Perras in the Butare trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In agreement with the family of the defendant, who has only 40 000 $Can (21 million Frw) to ensure the defence expenses estimated at 600 000 $ (315,5 million Frw), Ottawa has committed to give financial assistance.

"It is difficult for him", states Mylène Dimitri in connection with her client. He was refused on many occasions conditional release while awaiting his final judgment. In April, a few days after the beginning of the trial, Mr. Munyaneza had been violently beaten by a fellow-prisoner. This aggression which had been greatly publicized had been considered to be "completely unacceptable, it is unqualifiable" by Judge André Denis.

© Hirondelle News Agency