Montreal, 29 October 2007 (FH) - The Canadian court charged with trying Désiré Munyaneza, 41, a Rwandan accused of genocide, should go to Rwanda and Austria at the beginning of 2008 to hear defence witnesses, reported this week the Canadian media.

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In a provisional list giving recently to the judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, the lawyers of Désiré  Munyaneza explain that they want to call 23 witnesses in order to clear their client, prosecuted for seven counts (war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity). Members of the defendant's family, citizens or refugees in Butare (south-eastern Rwanda) at the time of the genocide or former Rwandan civil servants are on this list.
Dispersed throughout France, Belgium, Austria, Rwanda, the United States and Kenya, all the witnesses will not, however, all be able to go Montreal, due to legal or health reasons.
Two letters of request should thus take place: one in Rwanda, to hear two persons that can not leave their country, and another in Austria. If only one witness resides in Austria whereas six others are in Belgium and France, the choice of this European country is explained not only by the will to minimize the financial costs but especially by the most similarity to Canadian law, compared to Belgian and French procedures.
However, certain problems must still be solved: "Often, lawyers do not even have the right question directly the witnesses", explained Perras. Indeed, lawyers must address the examining magistrate, the only one able to do so, and to suggest questions to him. "Such a modus operandi is not suitable", commented André Denis, the presiding judge of the Munyaneza trial.
Negotiations are, thus, currently underway between Canadian and Austrian prosecutors in order to harmonize the various rules of procedure. To add to these two letters of request, videoconferencing would be also under consideration. After the macabre accounts of the 28 witnesses called by the prosecution since the beginning of the trial, last March, the defence, hence, intends to resort to great means to clear Mr. Munyaneza, who face life in prison (25 years in Canada).
"It is him who is risking his life. It is not an ideal situation, but he prefers a full defence to a quick defence ", explained Perras, commenting on the timeframe of the trial, which should only be completed by mid-2008 after it began in March 2007.
After arriving in Canada in 1997, with a fake Cameroonian passport, Désiré Munyaneza had then asked for refugee status, fearing persecution because of his Hutu ethnicity. His request was refused in 2000 by the Canadian immigration services, suspecting Mr. Munyaneza of having taken part in persecutions; which resulted, according to the UN, in 800 000 victims between April and July 1994. After five years of investigations carried out by the RCMP (federal police), Mr. Munyaneza, who had been joined by his family, was arrested in October 2005 in Toronto (Ontario).

© Hirondelle News Agency