Canada unveils universal jurisdiction

02 April 2007 by Ivan Slobod

The first case under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act (2000) opened at the main courthouse in Montreal on March 26, 2007. The defendant, who has been in custody since being arrested in Toronto nearly eighteen months ago, walked into the courtroom more nattily attired than any previous occupant of the prisoner’s box. Désiré Munyaneza, a Rwandan charged with genocide, wore a color-coordinated suit, shirt and tie. He looked around, spotting his wife, other family members, attorneys and the single judge.

The seven charges in the indictment cover the period from April 1, 1994 through the end of July 1994, roughly corresponding to the 100 days of the genocide in Rwanda. Munyaneza, a Hutu, faces two counts of genocide, two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. The Crown alleges he systematically targeted Tutsis for murder and sexual violence in an attempt to destroy the Tutsi group. He is also charged with attacking civilian populations and pillaging Tutsi homes and businesses.

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