After a first trial ended with a deadlocked jury last month, federal prosecutors will try again in September to convict a New Hampshire woman alleged to have participated in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Prosecutors had accused Beatrice Munyenyezi of Manchester, N.H., of lying on immigration paperwork about her role in the genocide that left 800,000 people dead when she sought asylum and then citizenship after fleeing Rwanda.
Munyenyezi’s husband and mother-in-law were convicted of genocide charges by an international tribunal and sentenced to life in prison last year, and she had testified on their behalf. A Justice Department attempt to prosecute a Kansas man of Burundian origin on similar charges last year also ended unsuccessfully.
After the Munyenyezi mistrial, Rwanda’s prosecutor general, Martin Ngoga, blasted the U.S. justice system for letting his country down. "Some of these western jurisdictions can’t just understand the gravity of the cases before them," he told The New Times of Rwanda.
At trial, defense lawyers Mark Howard and David Ruoff argued that Rwanda’s authoritarian government manufactured genocide charges to intimidate witnesses and political opponents nearly two decades after the killings.
Jon Capin and Aloke Chakravarty of the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts argued that Munyenyezi had helped lead the genocide in the southern Rwandan city of Butare. As many as 30 witnesses will have to be flown from Rwanda to New Hampshire again for the new hearing, which could begin as early as September, said Ruoff, a lawyer for Munyenyezi.
"It’s the default federal maneuver," Ruoff said of the government’s renewed effort. "Well we’ve spent $3 million on the case. Let’s spend another $1 million."
U.S. Attorney Ortiz said: "United States citizenship is one of our Nation’s most valued privileges. Those involved in human rights violations should be aware that the United States will not idly tolerate the abuse of its accepting borders and will diligently investigate those who obtain citizenship fraudulently, even decades after the events."
Jason McLure is a freelancer reporter in New Hampshire.