A woman who served a 10-year sentence in U.S. prison for lying about her role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide to obtain American citizenship, and then lost her bid for a new trial, has been deported to the East African nation and is likely to face prosecution there.
Beatrice Munyenyezi, who a U.S. judge said “was actively involved” in the killing of Tutsis in Rwanda, was convicted and sentenced in 2013 in New Hampshire. It was her second trial; the first jury could not reach a verdict. Munyenyezi served a 10-year sentence in Alabama and had faced deportation.
She lost her latest court battle in March, when the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district judge’s rejection of her petition challenging how the jury was instructed during her trial in federal court in New Hampshire.
Her lawyer, Richard Guerriero, confirmed in an email Saturday that Munyenyezi had been deported to Rwanda. She arrived Friday and was handed over to Rwandan authorities, according to state-run media there.
“Her deportation means a lot in terms of justice delivery to genocide victims,” said Thierry Murangira, spokesperson for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, according to The New Times.
Munyenyezi is accused of seven crimes connected to the genocide, including murder and complicity in rape, according to Rwandan investigators. She will be detained as investigations continue and her case sent to prosecutors, the newspaper reported.
In the United States, Munyenyezi was convicted of lying about her role as a commander of one of the notorious roadblocks where Tutsis were singled out for slaughter. She denied affiliation with any political party, despite the leadership role of her husband, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, in the extremist Hutu militia party.
She requested a new trial based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that came in 2017, well after her sentencing, and limited the government’s ability to strip citizenship from immigrants who lied during the naturalization process.
Munyenyezi alleged that the jury was given inaccurate instructions on her criminal liability. A judge denied her request, saying that even if the instruction fell short, the error was harmless.
As part of her appeal, Munyenyezi’s trial lawyers, who are now New Hampshire superior court judges, said in court documents that they would have presented Munyenyezi’s case differently if the U.S. Supreme Court decision had been law during her trial.
They added that they believe if the jury had been instructed based on the court decision, “the verdict may have been different.”
“Having served her sentence and lost her appeal, she was removed from the country,” Guerriero said in a statement. “It is possible a further challenge to her conviction may be filed despite her removal.”
Munyenyezi fled to Nairobi, Kenya, with a young daughter in July 1994 in the waning days of the genocide. She gave birth to twin girls there four months later. She entered the United States as a refugee and settled in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city.
She got a $13-an-hour job working for the city housing authority and earned an associate’s degree in college. She financed a comfortable lifestyle through mortgages, loans and credit cards, but filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and had about $400,000 in debt discharged.
Ntahobali and his mother were convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes of violence and are serving life sentences. Both were deemed to be high-ranking members of the Hutu militia party, which orchestrated the attacks on Tutsis.
U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe, who sentenced her, said Munyenyezi “was not a mere spectator.”
He added, “I find this defendant was actively involved, actively participated, in the mass killing of men, women and children simply because they were Tutsis.”
McAuliffe acknowledged that Munyenyezi led a crime-free and productive life since her arrival in New Hampshire, but said it was a life lived under false pretenses.
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Kathy McCormack