US court upholds conviction of woman in Rwanda genocide case
BOSTON (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has upheld the conviction of a woman found guilty of lying about her role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide so she could obtain U.S. citizenship.
Beatrice Munyenyezi is serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2013.
One of her lawyers, David Ruoff, said Friday they are still mulling their options after the ruling by the three-judge panel, including whether to ask the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston for a rehearing by the full court. He said they have been unable to reach Munyenyezi, who is in a federal prison in Alabama, to tell her about the ruling.
Munyenyezi’s appeal said the trial judge should not have allowed prosecutors to use her testimony before an international war crimes tribunal to show she had a propensity to lie. Her lawyers accused a prosecutor of making false assertions while cross-examining a defense witness and said there was insufficient evidence to convict her.
Munyenyezi also said her sentence was too harsh. But the appeals court rejected all those arguments Wednesday and said the case record makes for “a bone-chilling read.”
Munyenyezi was convicted in February 2013 in the Concord, New Hampshire, federal courthouse where she had been granted U.S. citizenship a decade earlier. Her citizenship was stripped upon her conviction.
The jury found she lied about being affiliated with a political party that orchestrated much of the genocide. Witnesses say she helped patrol one of the notorious checkpoints at which those bearing a card identifying them as Tutsis were singled out for rape and murder.
Her husband and mother-in-law were convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda for crimes against humanity and other charges.
U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe at trial denied defense lawyers’ motion for a mistrial. The federal appeals panel upheld that, too, saying the circumstances in Munyenezi’s case “do not come within a country mile” of satisfying the “extremely compelling circumstances” standard.