Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Rwandan Acquitted in Canadian Universal Jurisdiction Trial

Jacques Mungwarere, who has been prosecuted for genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994 before Canadian courts, has been acquitted in a judgment issued by Ontario Superior Court Justice Michel Charbonneau.
Mungwarere was a 22-year-old teacher working in Kibuye prefecture when genocide began in Rwanda. He left the country and obtained refugee status in Canada. At his trial witnesses testified that he had been involved in planning attacks and distributing weapons, and that he had killed a child.  Judge Charbonneau disbelieved most of the witnesses, including Mungwarere himself.
The prosecution may appeal, although the chances of success where the trial judgment is based on an assessment of the credibility of witnesses is unlikely.
Canada has invested considerable time, energy and money in prosecutions on the basis of universal jurisdiction over the past 25 years but with rather meager results. The trial is one further example of the huge difficulty such remote prosecutions involve. Sometimes they may be the only option, but that is not the case with Rwanda, where extradition is a realistic possibility and has, in fact, been conducted recently.
Another Rwandan trial before Canadian courts resulted in a conviction. The case is on appeal.

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