Canadian court finds Rwandan refugee guilty of war crimes

Canadian court finds Rwandan refugee guilty of war crimesMontreal - In Canada's first ever trial for war crimes committed abroad, a court Friday found a Rwandan refugee guilty of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Following six months of deliberations, Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Denis found Desire Munyaneza guilty of all seven charges against him that included genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Munyaneza, 42, faces a possible life sentence.

The son of a wealthy Hutu businessman, Munyaneza fled to Canada in 1996 but was denied refugee status. He remained in Toronto until he was arrested in October 2005 after being recognized by members of the local Rwandan community who reported him to police.

At least 800,000 people were killed in the genocide, when ethnic Hutus, the country's majority group, slaughtered and raped rival minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the small East African country.

The landmark ruling makes Munyaneza the first person convicted under Canada's seven-year-old Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Charges against Munyaneza, a Hutu, stemmed from his role in massacres and rapes of Tutsis near the Rwandan town of Butare.

The multi-million-dollar trial took more than two years to complete and involved hearings in Montreal, as well as depositions in Rwanda, Kenya and France. Over 60 witnesses testified at his trial, including Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, who commanded UN peacekeepers in Rwanda in 1994. Many of the witnesses testified behind closed doors for fear of reprisals.

Judge Denis said that he believed the credibility of prosecution's witnesses more than those presented by the defence.

Bruce Broomhall, professor of international criminal law at the University of Quebec in Montreal, said he expected Munyaneza to appeal the verdict all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"Clearly there are going to be appeals," Broomhall said. "So we'll have to see how it plays out in the Quebec Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court." (dpa)