Life sentence for Rwandan convicted of war crimes

Sidhartha Banerjee

MONTREAL – A Canadian judge has imposed the toughest sentence possible on a man convicted of committing atrocities during the 1994 Rwandan genocide in an act described as the worst possible crime a human being can commit.

In a precedent-setting verdict with implications for future war crimes, Desire Munyaneza was sentenced Thursday to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for 25 years.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Denis handed down the sentence in a case international legal observers followed closely because of the ramifications it could have on similar prosecutions.

Munyaneza is the first person convicted under Canada’s recent Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

"The accused, an educated man from a privileged background, chose to kill, rape and pillage in the name of his ethnic group’s supremacy," the judge said in his verdict.

"The sentence I am imposing is severe because the law considers the crimes committed by the accused to be the worst in existence.

"History has shown that what happened there (in Rwanda) can happen anywhere in the world, and that nobody is immune to such a tragedy."

With time already served since his arrest, Munyaneza has at least 21 another years behind bars.

His lawyers had argued for leniency and had suggested he become eligible for parole after 20 years.

Munyaneza was found guilty last May on seven charges related to the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans – mostly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, between April and July of 1994.

The defence is appealing the verdict, but a hearing before the Quebec Court of Appeal isn’t likely until next year.

Munyaneza, the son of a wealthy businessman from the area, was arrested by the RCMP at his Toronto-area home in 2005.–life-sentence-for-rwandan-convicted-of-war-crimes?bn=1

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