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Procureur Général v. X. / General Prosecutor v. X. (Wenceslas Munyeshyaka)

This case summary is being revised and will be updated soon

Court Cour de Cassation, Chambre Criminelle, France
Case number 96-82491
Decision title Décision
Decision date 6 January 1998
  • Wenceslas Munyeshyaka
  • General Prosecutor
Other names
  • Wenceslas Munyeshyaka
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide
Keywords crimes against humanity, genocide, Rwanda, torture, transfer from / to ICTR, universal jurisdiction
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Procedural history

In 1995, a complaint was submitted by genocide survivors alleging that Munyeshyaka participated in acts of genocide. An official investigation was opened by the French authorities for “genocide, crimes against humanity and participation in a group already created for, or having as intent the planning of these crimes. On 28 July 1995, Munyeshyaka was arrested under rules of Universal Jurisdiction as provided for by the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and on a combination of articles 689-1 and 689-2 of the new French Code of Criminal Procedure. These articles allow the French judicial authorities the possibility to institute proceedings and pass judgment, in France, on any person having committed acts of torture outside of French territory.
However, Munyeshyaka was released in August 1995, and in March 1996 the Nimes Appeals Court ruled that France did not have the competency to judge the crime of genocide committed abroad by a foreign national against other foreign nationals.

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Related developments

Proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights:

At the request of Yvonne Mutimura, one of the plaintiffs in the case, the tardiness of the nine-year investigation was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in June 2004, which unanimously decided that French courts had violated the rights of Yvonne Mutimura to be heard promptly and her right to compensation

Proceedings at the ICTR:

On 21 June 2007, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) issued arrest warrants against Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and against the former prefet of Gikongoro, Laurent Bucyibaruta, who was also exiled in France. The ICTR Prosecutor filed requests to transfer the cases of Munyeshyaka and Bucyibaruta to the French authorities. Although Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was arrested in July 2007, on 1 August 2007 the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that the arrest warrant was invalid and ordered Munyeshyaka’s immediate release. According to this Court, the ICTR arrest warrant was imprecise and an infringement of French law on the presumption of innocence and ordered the immediate release of both men. 

The ICTR issued a second revised arrest warrant on 13 August 2007 and the two men were again arrested by the French authorities on 5 September 2007. On 26 September 2007, The Paris Appeals Court requested further information from the ICTR stating that it could not make a decision on the basis of the information provided.

On 20 November 2007, the ICTR decided to decline jurisdiction over this affair in favour of the French judicial authorities according to rule 11 bis of the Rules of Evidence and Procedure of the ICTR. On 20 February 2008, the French authorities agreed to try Wenceslas Munyeshkaya and Bucyibaruta in France. As yet there has been little further progress in the proceedings before French courts. 

Proceedings before Rwandan Courts:

In December 2005, Rwanda announced that an international arrest warrant had been issued against Wenceslas Munyeshyaka. According to Rwandan law, civilians accused of complicity with members of the army are tried before a military tribunal. Munyeshyaka was tried in absentia before the Military Court in Kigali as an accomplice of General Laurent Munyakazi who had been in charge of the security of the city of Kigali during the genocide. In November 2006, Munyeshyaka was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia.

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Legally relevant facts

Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was a Rwandan priest at the Sainte-Famille parish in Kigali, accused of acts including the selection of Tutsis to be killed and raping several women. After fleeing Rwanda, Munyeshyaka moved to France where he continued work as a priest.

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Court's holding and analysis

On 6 January 1998, France’s highest appeal court, (Cour de Cassation) ordered that the proceedings instituted in 1995 against Wenceslas Munyeshyaka be reopened. The Court ruled that the Trial Chamber had committed a breach of law by taking into account only the criminal charge of genocide, whereas the acts which were committed could also be considered as crimes of torture allowed for in Article 689-2 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure under the concept of Universal Jurisdiction.

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Related cases

Munyeshyaka case before the ICTR   

See also:
Bagaragaza, Michel 
Bucyibaruta, Laurent
Gatete, Jean-Baptiste 
Kanyarukiga, Gaspard 
Kayishema, Fulgence  
Ntawukuriryayo, Dominique