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Historic genocide trial opens in Sweden

A man charged with participating in the 1994 massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda is being heard in Sweden's first genocide trial.

Historic genocide trial opens in Sweden

Stanislas Mbanenande, 54, a Swedish citizen of Rwandan origin, is charged with genocide and crimes against international law. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.

Mbanenande, an ethnic Hutu, allegedly took part in massacres in his homeland between April 6th and June 30th, 1994 that left thousands dead.

The indictment describes Mbanenande as having taken an “informal role as a lower-level leader among young Hutus who sympathised with, or came to sympathise with, Hutu extremism.”

It also states that his leadership status was borne out by the fact that he possessed an automatic firearm, which he is said to have fired into crowds.

Mbanenande allegedly murdered or recruited young men to take part in massacres.

He was ordered to stand trial in Sweden after Stockholm was unable to comply with a request to extradite him to Rwanda, where he has been given a lifetime sentence in absentia, due to the fact that he obtained Swedish citizenship in 2008.

Mbanenande has been in Sweden since 2007, when he joined his family and obtained a residency permit based on family reunification grounds.

In another first in Swedish legal history, part of the trial will be carried out in Rwanda, where witnesses will testify in the high court of Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

For practical reasons it was not possible to bring some of the 40 witnesses to Sweden, meaning the Swedish judges will fly down to Rwanda. The accused, however, will participate in the trial via video link from Sweden. The trial is expected to take several months.

Mbanenande has denied all charges following his arrest in December last year under an international arrest warrant.

The killing of Rwanda’s Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6th 1994 triggered a genocide in which 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority, were killed, according to UN figures.

The Local/AFP/nr

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LAW

Swedish law to include crimes against humanity

Sweden is set to introduce crimes against humanity into its penal code in a move to tackle widespread, systematic, and inhumane crimes abroad in Swedish courts.

Swedish law to include crimes against humanity

Sweden said Friday it would introduce crimes against humanity into its penal code to allow it to judge such cases in its own courts, following similar moves by France and Canada.

The change, which also expands laws on genocide and war crimes, is part of a justice ministry bill expected to pass easily in parliament and come into force in July 2014, the Swedish press said.

Sweden's Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, told the daily Svenska Dagbladet that the current penal code required some improvements and "the way this kind of serious crime is dealt with will become much clearer".

Crimes against humanity, according to the definition in the bill, include murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution and any other inhumane act or omission committed against civilians, in a widespread or systematic manner.    

Several people in Sweden have been sentenced since 2006 for war crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars.    

In June this year the country's first trial for genocide concluded with a life sentence for the Swede of Rwandan origin, Stanislas Mbanenande.

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