By Lisa Vives
After two unsuccessful appeals in the U.S., a Rwandan woman is back in Kigali where she stands to face prosecution for her active role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
In an application for political asylum, Beatrice Munyenyezi denied that she had been involved in the killing of Tutsis in Rwanda. But witnesses were found and told a court how Munyenyezi had inspected identity cards at a notorious roadblock where ethnic Tutsis were singled out for slaughter.
Her nickname, “the Commander,” triggered brutal memories of a killer, the victims testified, who committed multiple acts of violence, including beating a small Tutsi boy to death with a spiked club.
She served 10 years in prison for lying in an asylum application that gave her the right to remain in the U.S. with her three daughters.
Munyenyezi also denied affiliation with any political party when she applied for asylum, despite her husband being a leader of the Interahamwe militia—the youth wing of the then-governing MRND—the Hutu political party that formed roving bands of killers that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their Tutsi countrymen. She was stripped of her U.S. citizenship after she was convicted in 2013—she had already spent nearly two years in custody.
Munyenyezi’s conviction came about after U.S. federal agent Brian Andersen and other federal officials travelled to Rwanda several times to locate victims who remembered her committing multiple acts of violence.
“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, an English language newspaper in Rwanda.
About 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered in Rwanda in 100 days in 1994 by Hutu extremists, many of whom later fled the country.
Her husband, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, and her mother-in-law, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who was a government minister, were both found guilty in 2011 by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for their role in the genocide and are serving long prison 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… I find this defendant was actively involved, actively participated, in the mass killing of men, women and children simply because they were Tutsis.”
The 51-year-old is expected to be arrested on her arrival home and charged over her role in the genocide.