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Friday, June 25, 2010

Woman allegedly took part in genocide

MANCHESTER – A Manchester woman who has depicted herself as a victim of atrocities that happened in her native Rwanda during the 1990s was arrested Thursday on immigration charges and accused of, in fact, taking part in the genocide during which more than 500,000 were murdered over only a few months.

Beatrice Munyenyezi, 40, of 73 Goffe St., was arrested Thursday morning in Manchester. She has been indicted on two counts of procuring citizenship unlawfully, according to John Kacavas, New Hampshire’s U.S. Attorney, and Carmen Ortiz, Massachusetts, U.S. Attorney. A federal affidavit alleges that Munyenyezi participated in the genocide by, among other things, using a wooden club to murder a Tutsi boy and directing the serial rape of Tutsi women and girls.

The investigation of an alleged perpetrator of the Rwandan genocide who then lied about it to gain entrance to the United States appears to be one of the kind. Munyenyezi’s sister, Prudence Kantengwe, has been accused of lying about her political memberships and events she witnessed during the genocide to get into the country, but has not been accused of actually taking part, according to U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Christina DiIorio-Sterling.

The federal indictment against Munyenyezi alleges that she “participated, committed, ordered, oversaw, conspired to, aided and abetted, assisted in and directed persecution, kidnapping, rape and murder” during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Munyenyezi then lied about her involvement to obtain immigration and naturalization benefits, the U.S. Attorneys said.

During the 1990s, Munyenyezi and her husband were active supporters of the Mouvement Republicain National pour le Developpement (MRND) and leaders of the party’s youth militia, the Interahamwe in Byumba – a state within Rwanda, according to an affidavit written by Thomas Andersen, Jr., a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston.

The affidavit was attached to a search warrant application for Munyenyezi’s house in Manchester.

Munyenyezi lived at the Ihuriro Hotel, which her husband’s family owned, during the genocide, Thomas said, and there were several roadblocks nearby, including one in front of the hotel.

It was there that Munyenyezi participated and committed in the genocide, Thomas said, based on “several witnesses I have interviewed.”

“Munyenyezi assisted in many ways, including but not limited to, participating in and speaking at meetings and public rallies of the MRND and Interahamwe, bringing supplies to Interahamwe and others who participated genocide against Tutsis including those who manned roadblocks in Butare, identifying and discussing Tutsis to be killed and encouraging others to rape Tutsi women and kill Tutsis, checking identity cards and otherwise identifying Tutsi at roadblocks, and selecting Tutsis to be kidnapped, raped and murdered,” Thomas wrote. “Munyenyezi also took and received personal property and belongings that were taken from victims who were murdered.”

Thomas spoke to several eye-witnesses who were victims of the genocide, according to his affidavit, including one who positively identified Munyenyezi as the person who directed the victim’s gang rape, which took place while the victim’s husband watched.

Another witness, one who also took part in the genocide, told Thomas Munyenyezi directed the serial rape of Tutsi women, ran the roadblock outside the hotel and once killed a Tutsi boy by hitting him in the head with a wooden club, according to the affidavit.

Munyenyezi was admitted to the United States as a refugee in 1998 after providing false information on a number of immigration forms regarding her actions during the genocide and membership in the MRND, Thomas said in the affidavit.

She lied again in 2002 on forms she filed to obtain her naturalization, Thomas said.

In 2005, Munyenyezi told National Public Radio about the challenges she faced in Manchester and said she had escaped the genocide with her family. She said she was discriminated against as an African refugee and described herself as “a fighter against adversity,” Thomas wrote.

Last year, Munyenyezi wrote a story for the National Endowment for the Arts about her experience in Africa, Thomas wrote.

If convicted on the immigration charges, Munyenyezi could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, along with the revocation of her citizenship, the U.S. Attorneys said.

Munyenyezi’s fate regarding her alleged war crimes is more complicated, DiIorio-Sterling said. If she is convicted, she would automatically be stripped of her citizenship and may end up serving her sentence in the United States. Another possibility is that she would be deported to Rwanda where she could face genocide charges, DiIorio-Sterling said.

Munyenyezi’s husband and mother-in-law are already facing charges for their alleged actions during the genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania, according to Thomas’ affidavit. During several days in February 2006, Munyenyezi gave false testimony during those trials, he said.

Munyenyezi’s case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aloke Chakravarty and Jeffrey Auerhahn from the District of Massachusetts.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or