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Canada: Convicted War Criminal to Be Sentenced in September 2009

(July 13, 2009) The Rwandan man who became the first person to be convicted in Canada of war crimes will be sentenced in September 2009 by the Quebec Superior Court judge who convicted him on May 22, 2009, for his role in the genocide that occurred near the city of Butare, Rwanda in 1994. (2009 Q.C.C.S. 2201, available at In handing down his decision, Justice Andre Denis stated that he was convinced that Desire Munyaneza intentionally killed Tutsi, seriously wounded others, caused serious physical and mental harm, assaulted many Tutsi women, and generally treated Tutsi inhumanely and degradingly. The judge also found that while Munyaneza was not the leader of the gang in Butare, he chose to be one of the driving forces.

Canada generally follows the territorial principle of criminal law, which requires a crime to be committed within Canada in order for the courts to have jurisdiction to try a person for committing it. However, this principle, which is enshrined in the Criminal Code (R.S.C. ch. C-46 (1985), as amended, available at, has been modified in a number of respects. For example, a person who attacks a Canadian diplomat abroad or engages in terrorist operations against a Canadian abroad can be tried in Canada. In 2000, Canada extended its extraterritorial jurisdiction even further by enacting the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Act (2000 S.C. ch. 24, available at This statute gives Canadian courts jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for certain types of crimes against humanity and war crimes, regardless of the victims' or perpetrators' nationality, as long as they are apprehended in Canada. Munyaneza was arrested in Toronto in 2005 after a lengthy investigation. He had originally applied for refugee status in 1997. (Sidhartha Banerjee, Desire Munyaneza Becomes First Man Convicted of War Crimes in Canada, CANADA EAST, May 22, 2009, available at