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Canada to Prosecute Rwandan Genocide Suspect

Canada has made its first arrest under its five-year-old Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. It will prosecute Desire’ Munyaneza for his alleged role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Voice of America’s

Mr. Munyaneza, who lived in Toronto, is charged with two counts of genocide, two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. His arrest follows a five-year investigation and stems from events in Butare.

Among those who have been campaigning for Mr. Munyaneza’s arrest is Rakiya Omaar, head of the human rights group, African Rights. Speaking from Kigali, she says he was responsible for the large network of roadblocks during the genocide, looking for Tutsi and moderate Hutu. She says survivors have also accused him of abducting Tutsi from the University Hospital in Butare, where they were being treated for machete wounds and other injuries.

“He is in particular accused of having played a very significant role in rape and sexual violence – personally himself raping many women and girls and encouraging the militia under his command to act similarly,” she says.

Ms. Omaar says some of his victims have since died of HIV/AIDS. She says having his trial in Canada will renew public attention on what happened more than a decade ago.

She says, “There are many other genocide suspects in Canada. And I think the fact of having the prosecution in Canada is in itself an education to the Canadian population about what happened in Rwanda and about the genocide internationally. And that in itself is very important for history, for justice and as a consolation to the survivors this public acknowledgement of what happened and who was responsible.”

The head of African Rights says the Canadian prosecution of Desire’ Munyaneza is all the more important because the International Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, is set to end its work in 2008. And she says the trials in Rwanda rarely get international attention. She says there are many Rwandan genocide suspects still at large in the United States, France, Belgium, Zambia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

She says, “Many of these people are the ones who masterminded the genocide, incited people into massive participation. And there’s real anger among the genocide suspects in detention here in Rwanda about the fact that the people who planned the genocide and also intimidated them into participation are living comfortable lives as professors in the universities around the world and getting refugee status, having their children educated by welfare systems in Europe while they are here in prison in Rwanda.”

Rakiya Omaar also says bringing those responsible to justice “is a small necessary gesture towards the survivors.”

Also, earlier this year, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that another Rwandan, Leon Mugesera, be deported to Rwanda to face war crimes charges there.