The judge addresses Jacque Mungwarere in this court sketch (Image: AP/Sarah Wallace)
A Rwandan refugee who faced accusations that he committed war crimes in his native country was acquitted today by an Ontario court.
In his ruling on the case, the judge said the accused is "probably guilty," but that guilt had not been proven "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Jacque Mungwarere, the accused, is only the second person to be tried under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act in Canada (the first was another Rwandan living in Ontario, Désiré Munyaneza, who was convicted in 2009).
Mungwarere was acquitted of one count of genocide by murder, and one count of crimes against humanity by murder. If he had been convicted, he would have faced an automatic sentence of 25 years with no chance of parole.
The trial lasted a total of 26 weeks. Mungwarere claimed the accusations against him had been fabricated, and that the charges had emerged three weeks after he agreed to testify for the defence at the trial of another Rwandan in the U.S.
Judge Michel Charbonneau said in his decision that none of the witnesses for either the defense or the prosecution was completely believable, CBC News reports, meaning the threshold of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" wasn't met.
Mungwarere arrived in Canada in 2001 as a refugee from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The former school teacher was charged in 2003 while living in Windsor, Ontario, after a man recognized him and contacted the RCMP.
The witness told police that Mungwarere was not an innocent refugee, but an active participant in the 1994 genocide who had participated in a massacre of Tutsis in the region of Kibuye.
A quick overview of the Rwandan Genocide: in 1994, a mass slaughter of one ethnic group, the Tutsis, by another, the Hutus, in the East African state of Rwanda.
According to estimates from Human Rights Watch, over 500,000 people were killed in a period of about one month (some estimates put the death toll as high as 1,000,000 people).
The slaughter led to the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Rome Statute was the treaty that established the ICC, and also led to the creation of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act in Canada.
Via CBC News