Court hears details of Rwandan genocide

The Canadian general who headed the United Nations peacekeeping force during the 1994 Rwandan genocide gave a chilling account on Tuesday of how roadblocks popped up like mushrooms and served only to pick out and murder Tutsis.

Romeo Dallaire testified at the Canadian war crimes trial of Desire Munyaneza, who is accused of leading attacks on members of the Tutsi ethnic minority at the National University of Rwanda and south of the capital, Kigali. More than a half million Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were slain during the genocide.

Canada’s War Crimes Act permits the trial of suspects for crimes that occurred abroad. Munyaneza has pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Dallaire told how the roadblocks run by government-backed militia served no military purpose.

”It was simply there as a tool of ethnic cleansing,” Dallaire testified in Quebec Superior Court.

”There was no military or technical value,” he said.

”It was purely to destroy human beings.”

While Dallaire and Munyaneza never appeared to cross paths, prosecutors must establish Munyaneza took part in a ”widespread or systematic attack” directed at a particular ethnic group to prove genocide and crimes against humanity, according to the untested 2000 Canadian war crimes law.

Several witnesses earlier in the trial described Munyaneza as a ground-level leader in a militia group that raped and murdered dozens.

Dallaire testified how rape and murder spread across the country, perpetrated by members of the Interahamwe militia, a unit of which several other witnesses said Munyaneza was a leader.

He described finding stacks of half-burnt Tutsi-only identity cards at the scene of massacres, pointing to the ethnic motivation behind the countrywide attacks.

Dallaire said hundreds of Tutsis would be allowed to seek refuge in churches, where they would be penned in and slaughtered — sometimes over several days.

Dallaire, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his days in charge of the UN effort, recalled confronting a Rwandan Hutu military commander over the roadblocks.

The barricades, often separated by only a few dozen meters, were often moved after bodies were stacked too high, Dallaire said.

Early in the slaughter, Dallaire says he confronted Colonel Theoneste Bagosora over the roadblocks but got no response.

Bagosora was later identified as a leader of the massacres and is awaiting a verdict in his own war crimes trial in Arusha, Tanzania.

Dallaire testified at his trial several years ago.

Dallaire described how he ”saw, smelled, touched, moved, stepped over” thousands of bodies during the 100 days of killing in the spring of 1994.

Dallaire, now a Canadian senator, spoke clearly and forcefully in his first genocide testimony in a Canadian criminal court but appeared to tire and slouch slightly as the day went on.

Dallaire takes medication and is in therapy to deal with the psychological fallout of the mission, which led to several suicide attempts.

Canada denied Munyaneza, a Hutu, refugee status in September 2000 and he lost several appeals. An Immigration and Refugee Board panel also found there were reasons to believe he had participated in crimes against humanity.

Munyaneza was living in Toronto before he was arrested in October 2005 after reports that he had been seen circulated among Canada’s Rwandan community. – Sapa-AP

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