A New Hampshire woman who emigrated from Rwanda in 1998 was stripped of her citizenship by a federal judge Thursday after a jury found her guilty of lying on immigration forms about her affiliation with the political party that led the central African nation’s 1994 genocide.
Beatrice Munyenyezi, 43, is to be sentenced in June in Concord, N.H., and faces up to 10 years in prison.
The conviction is vindication for the office of Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which first put Munyenyezi on trial in New Hampshire last March after spending years and an estimated $3 million investigating, interviewing and transporting dozens of witnesses from central Africa.
That first effort ended in a mistrial, with the jury deadlocked after hearing government witnesses recount grisly tales about Munyenyezi, an ethnic Hutu who is married to a man who was convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2011.
They accused Munyenyezi variously of helping plot the genocide in the southern Rwandan town of Butare, executing a nun, overseeing a roadblock in the town and deciding who the Interhamwe militia would kill, and feeding gangs of militiamen following gang-rapes.
That testimony was attacked by defense lawyers David Ruoff and Mark Howard, who argued the stories had been manufactured by Rwanda’s current Tutsi-dominated government and lacked credibility, given that no one had mentioned their client, who was pregnant at the time, as a genocide leader during hundreds of hours of testimony about Butare at the Tanzania-based tribunal that convicted her husband.
In their second attempt, prosecutors brought forward witnesses who painted Munyenyezi not as a nun-killer or militia leader but a more ordinary member of the Hutu-nationalist MRND political party who later lied about it on her immigration forms. "By watering down their case and making her less significant, they mitigated their argument," Ruoff said. "They took to heart what the last jury said, who apparently didn’t believe any of the witnesses."