Talk looks at Canada’s record on pursuing war criminals

Is Canada’s post-1945 record of pursuing war criminals good? Not according to Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, a PhD candidate at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who says when compared with the United States, Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, Canada’s record is dismal.

Hamalengwa (BA Spec. Hons. ’79, LLB ’89, LLM ’01) will present “The History and Politics of War Crimes Legislation and Prosecutions in Canada, 1945-2005” on Thursday, Jan. 21, from 12:30 to 2pm, in 902 York Research Tower, Keele campus. The talk is part of the Osgoode-York Seminar Series in Policy Research and is sponsored by the York Centre for Public Policy & Law.

Right: Munyonzwe Hamalengwa

The arrest and prosecution in Canada of Désiré Munyaneza, a Rwandan war crimes suspect, and his subsequent conviction in 2009, generated worldwide news and marked Canada as a leader in the exercise of universal jurisdiction (UJ), says Hamalengwa. However, in the post-International Criminal Court era, Canada’s post-war record of the pursuit of war criminals is dismal. In fact, the concept of UJ is overblown in Canada and elsewhere; its exercise is highly political and unequal.

Hamalengwa, born in Zambia, will examine the history and politics of war crimes legislation and prosecutions in Canada, including whether this country can distinguish itself in the exercise of UJ in the post-apartheid and post-International Criminal Court eras. He will suggest the way forward for the equal application of UJ and Canada’s potential leadership role in its application.

As a lawyer, Hamalengwa has practised administrative, human rights, immigration, criminal, constitutional and family law at the trial and appeal levels, as well as international human rights law.

For more information and to confirm attendance, contact Jennifer Dalton at or 416-736-5612.

A light lunch will be served.