OTTAWA – The trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity of Rwandan Désiré Munyaneza took a new turn Tuesday with the appearance of General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian General who had led the UN contingent between 1993 and 1994 in Rwanda.
During the three days of testimony, the former Commander-in-chief of the UNAMIR, now a senator in Ottawa, will be questioned by the prosecution and then by the defence. Mr. Dallaire will not bring forth any elements concerning the defendant directly: he will testify only as an expert-witness.
“He is to show the existence in Rwanda, at the time of the events, of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the existence of a genocide”, explains Richard Roy, one of the three prosecutors who represent the Attorney General of Canada (Minister of Justice).
According to Mylène Dimitri, one of three counsels for Munyaneza, his customer “is placing all of his energy on the preparation of his defence case [which begins in January] because, even if expert testimonies are important, they do not speak about him”.
However, the defence does not intend to only listen to the testimony of the retired general. “In the past, he has made certain comments which were afterwards contradicted by observers, including by peacekeepers”, alleges Dimitri, ahead of the cross-examination.
Roméo Dallaire is the twenty-ninth witness to take the stand since the trial opened on 26 March 2007.
A first “expert- witness” has already testified, 17 September, before the Quebec Superior Court: Rony Zachariah, a doctor for MSF at the Butare hospital (city where Munyaneza comes from); Mr. Zachariah came to describe the scenes that he saw. He in particular told of the massacre of 150 patients, at his institution, on 23 April 1994.
These contextual testimonies should permit the Crown to establish the width of the exactions to which Munyaneza would have participated in, even indirectly.
This former rich merchant of south-eastern Rwanda must answer to seven counts in his indictment: two for genocide, two for crimes against humanity and three for war crimes.
He arrived in Canada in 1997 with a fake Cameroonian passport, he had asked for refugee status, fearing “to be persecuted because of his Hutu ethnicity”.
A request that was rejected in 2000 by the Canadian immigration services which suspected Munyaneza of having taken part in persecutions, which would have resulted in 800 000 victims between April and July 1994.
At the end of five years of investigations carried out by the RCMP (federal police force), Munyaneza, who had been joined by his family, was arrested in October 2005 in Toronto (Ontario).
It is the first time in Canada that an individual is prosecuted for such crimes. Actually, a law came into effect in October 2000 that gave the magistrates of the Crown full jurisdictions over crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Munyaneza, with Ottawa ensuring the majority of his defence expenses (estimated at 600 000 $ CAN, approx. 315, 5 million Frw), faces life in prison.
After Roméo Dallaire, two other “expert-witness” will follow, Alison Des Forges, a historian, and André Guichaoua, a sociologist, should end the prosecution case.