Ten Year Sentence, but Will Deportation be the Answer?
Through 2 trials and three years since her indictment in 2010, a mistrial in 2012 and three years of being without her children, justice has been served on 43-year old Rwanda native Beatrice Munyenyezi. She was convicted in February of entering the United States and obtaining citizenship by false claims regarding her role as a commander of one of the infamous roadblocks where Tutsis were singled out for slaughter. She also denied association with any political party, even though her husband had a leadership role in the extremist Hutu militia party.
On Monday, a federal judge sentenced her to the maximum ten years in prison for lying about her involvement in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The judge made it clear that the United States cannot be a safe haven for those who slaughtered out of hatred and ignorance. She did not take advantage of her right to address the court after U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe handed down her sentence.
"She was not a mere spectator," McAuliffe said. "I find this defendant was actively involved, actively participated, in the mass killing of men, women, and children simply because they were Tutsis."
He also acknowledged the fact that since entering the U.S. she has lived a crime free life since her arrival in New Hampshire in 1998 but said it was a life lived as a lie.
Midway through the hearing, Munyenyezi started crying. There was no visible reaction from her adult daughters during the preceding.
"It's very, very traumatic," defense attorney David Ruoff said afterward. "She's been anxious about this. Regardless of what happened in Rwanda in 1994, it's traumatic for any person to face their kids under these circumstances."
McAuliffe said she essentially stole a citizenship opening away from a deserving refugee, perhaps one who also had daughters and was a victim of cruelty and persecution. Ironically, Munyenyezi took the oath of citizenship a decade ago in the exact courthouse where she was sentenced. McAuliffe stripped her of that citizenship when she was found guilty. Her lawyers will appeal her conviction with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. This appeal will be expected to delay deportation proceedings.
Federal prosecutors had looked for the maximum prison sentence, saying she's as guilty as if she brandished the machete herself.
In April of 1994, Hutus began slaughtering the Tutsis in the African country of Rwanda. Lasting 100 days, the Rwanda genocide left approximately 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu partisans dead.
At the end of her ten-year prison sentence, she could face deportation, which her lawyers say will be a death sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said prosecutors knew the case would be a challenge, and that no case similar to this link to the Rwanda genocide had ever been prosecuted in the United States. "But tolerating genocide was not an option," he said.
Munyenyezi's husband, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali and his mother were both convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes of violence and are serving life sentences. They were regarded to be high-ranking members of the Hutu militia party that coordinated the brutal attacks on the Tutsis.
Munyenyezi's sister, Prudence Kantengwa, was found guilty and convicted last summer in Boston, on charges of fraudulently obtaining a visa to enter the United States by lying about her own Hutu political party associations. She was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.
I wonder how many are still in hiding, living a good life with no worries about being slaughtered for who they are. I have no sympathy for these people: Do I understand it? Possibly, but killing innocent people is wrong for any reason.