Prosecution Seeks Life Sentence for Beatrice Munyenyezi in Rwanda Genocide Case

On February 28, 2024, in Rwanda, the prosecution has requested a life sentence for Beatrice Munyenyezi, accused of genocide crimes allegedly committed in the city of Butare in 1994. Munyenyezi, who was extradited to Rwanda by the United States in 2021 after serving a sentence for fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship, expressed her hope for acquittal to reunite with her children.

During the court session on Wednesday, Munyenyezi’s defense argued that the testimonies against her fail to conclusively prove her involvement in the genocide. Her lawyer, Bruce Bikotwa, challenged the credibility of witnesses, citing inconsistencies such as conflicting reports about Munyenyezi’s pregnancy during the genocide. The defense presented documents indicating that she was pregnant with twins, which contradicts some testimonies.

Further complicating the narrative, while some witnesses claimed Munyenyezi was a university student in Butare during the genocide, her defense clarified that she had been expelled from Gitwe high school for pregnancy and later attended CEFOTEC in Butare for two semesters before the genocide began. The defense urged the court to dismiss the allegations, labeling them as based on “fabricated stories.”

The prosecution, however, maintained that the evidence against Munyenyezi is substantial and illustrates her active participation in the murder of Tutsis in Butare. This includes testimonies from university students in proximity to where Munyenyezi resided.

Munyenyezi faces charges including murder and incitement of rape against Tutsi women and girls, all of which she denies, attributing the accusations to her marital ties. The prosecution has sought a life sentence, and victims are pursuing compensation.

When given the opportunity to address the court regarding the proposed life sentence, Munyenyezi appealed for justice, stating, “I ask for fairness so I can see my children again. I am not a genocide denier, nor did I participate in it. Guilt is individual, and if I am being accused because of my marital family, it is unjust to punish me for their crimes. I trust in justice.”

Munyenyezi, 54, is married to Shalom Ntahobari, and both her husband and mother-in-law, Paulina Nyiramasuhuko, a former Minister of Family and Women’s Affairs in 1994, are serving sentences for genocide crimes in Arusha, Tanzania.

The judge announced that a verdict in Munyenyezi’s trial would be delivered on March 27. This case underscores the complexities of adjudicating alleged genocide involvement, highlighting the delicate balance between seeking justice for victims and ensuring a fair and unbiased legal process for the accused.