Desire Munyaneza, the first person ever to be convicted under Canada's war-crimes act, was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years for torturing and raping civilians during the Rwandan genocide.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Denis handed down the sentence at the Montreal courthouse on Thursday morning after presiding over the lengthy war-crimes trial.

Munyaneza, 42, had been found guilty in May of seven counts arising from the 1994 genocide during which 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.

"The accused, an educated man from a privileged background, chose to kill, rape and pillage in the name of his ethnic group's supremacy,'' the judge said in his verdict.

"The sentence I am imposing is severe because the law considers the crimes committed by the accused to be the worst in existence.

"History has shown that what happened there (in Rwanda) can happen anywhere in the world, and that nobody is immune to such a tragedy.''

Under Canadian law, crimes of such magnitude carry an automatic sentence of 25 years.

With time already served since his arrest, Munyaneza has at least 21 more years behind bars.


Justice Denis ruled in May that Munyaneza "intentionally killed Tutsis" and seriously wounded others.

Denis also recounted the horrific acts in his ruling, saying Munyaneza tied up children in sacks and beat them to death with sticks.

But the defence says Munyaneza is the victim of mistaken identity.

The defence is appealing the verdict, but a hearing before the Quebec Court of Appeal isn't likely until next year.

Munyaneza, the son of a wealthy businessman from the area, was arrested by the RCMP at his Toronto-area home in 2005.

- With files from The Canadian Press -