First Canadian war crimes trial in 15 years set to begin Monday



    OTTAWA, March 23 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Centre for International
Justice (CCIJ) today applauded the pending opening of the first trial in
Canada in 15 years for a suspected war criminal. The case against Desiré
Munyaneza begins Monday in Montreal, for charges of genocide, crimes against
humanity and war crimes related to the atrocities committed against millions
of Rwandans in 1994.
    Munyaneza, a former militia commander, is accused of committing murder,
psychological terror, physical attacks and sexual violence against Tutsis. He
fled Rwanda in 1997 and came to Canada using a fake passport and filing a
refugee claim. He was arrested in Toronto by the RCMP in October 2005.
    Government of Canada figures show that some 800 war criminals and human
rights abusers currently live in Canada. Yet there have been no trials for war
crimes in this country since a handful of cases against former Nazis failed in
the early 1990s. Canada passed a new law in 2000 to clarify that Canadian
courts can hear such cases, but there has been no commitment to use the law
until this case.
    "The Canadian government simply washes its hands of the problem,
deporting people with no regard to the need for justice," said Amir Attaran, a
law professor and CCIJ member.
    The importance of the trial in deterring future atrocities was emphasized
by Dr. Pacifique Manirakiza, also a law professor and member of the CCIJ.
"National-level trials like this one are critical to the whole system of
international justice," he said. "International courts and tribunals exist,
but they are premised on the willingness of domestic courts to do their
share."
    Cases such as the one against Munyaneza also strongly support the
rehabilitation processes of survivors, including the many Canadians who have
experienced such crimes.
    "Some 25-30% of Canada's refugee population has experienced torture,"
says Dr. Joan Simalchik, former Director of the Canadian Centre for Victims of
Torture and a CCIJ founder. "And because people from one country often end up
in the same place in Canada, survivors see people who tortured them or killed
members of their family."
    The trial against Desiré Munyaneza will be presided over by Quebec
Superior Court Justice André Denis, and comes after several weeks of
preliminary hearings in Rwanda.




For further information:

For further information: Jayne Stoyles, CCIJ Coordinator, (613)
614-4292

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CANADIAN CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE

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