Désiré Munyaneza was born in 1966, the son of a wealthy Hutu shopkeeper in Butare. He was running the town's main general store when the genocide in Rwanda began in April 1994.
According to a report of the organization “African Rights”, Munyaneza was known as a political extremist even before April 1994. He was said to have formed close working relationships with the principal military officers and local government officials in charge of the genocide in Butare. During the 100 days of killings, he distinguished himself by virtue of his energy and dedication to the policy of the massacres, and the efficiency of his operations.
According to the same report, one of Munyaneza’s responsibilities was the surveillance of a network of roadblocks set up throughout the town of Butare, manned by militiamen wielding machetes, axes, nail-studded clubs and other instruments. Anyone who was identified as a Tutsi was killed on the spot, or taken away and assassinated elsewhere.
Furthermore Munyaneza was accused of having played a very significant role in rape and sexual violence – having personally raped many women and girls and having encouraged the militia under his command to do the same.
Munyaneza was also blamed by witnesses and survivors for abducting Tutsis, with the help of soldiers, from the University Hospital.
In 1997, Munyaneza fled to Canada carrying a fake Cameroon passport. He immediately filed a refugee claim insisting that, because he was a Hutu, he would be killed if he was sent back to Rwanda.
Three years later, the Immigration and Refugee Board rejected his claim, largely on the testimony of an RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) war crimes investigator who linked Mr. Munyaneza to the Rwandan massacre. The Immigration and Refugee Board panel found that there were reasons to believe he had participated in crimes against humanity. According to Art 1F of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a person is excluded from asylum if there are serious reasons to believe that he or she has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, a crime against humanity or has committed an offence against the purposes and the principles of the United Nations.
Munyaneza was living in Toronto when he was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on 19 October 2005.