Two judges receive national award for prosecution of Rwandan

Two federal prosecutors from Iowa’s Northern District have received the prestigious SHIELD Award from the Anti-Defamation League for their successful prosecution of a Rwandan man who is accused of participating in that country’s genocide and who was found guilty of illegally entering the United States as a refugee.

A federal judge in May revoked the citizenship of Gervais “Ken” Ngombwa, 56, of Cedar Rapids, after a jury found him guilty of unlawfully procuring citizenship to which he was not entitled and of lying to Homeland Security agents, The Gazette reports.

For their work on the case, the award was presented to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard Murphy and Ravi Narayan in September at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The investigators on the Ngombwa case also received awards — Homeland Security special agents Michael Fischels, Andrew Lund and Frank Hunter.

“It was a humbling experience to be at the ceremony for this great honor,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the labor-intensive investigation started in 2011 when authorities were tipped that Ngombwa was wanted in Rwanda for his role in the genocide against the Tutsi people. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million Rwandans were killed in the East African country in a 100-day period in 1994.

Homeland Security agents conducted an extensive investigation in Rwanda to track down witnesses who knew Ngombwa, either from his activities during the genocide or from his time in refugee camps, Murphy said.

“Many of the official records, like birth records, were destroyed in Rwanda after the war, so it took good old shoe leather by the agents to track down witnesses,” Murphy said. “It’s not like you could call them on a cell. Many don’t have phones.

“It was difficult to locate people. Many live out in the country, so it took going into the bush, to find them. And many people were fearful of retaliation.”

After Ngombwa’s January trial in Cedar Rapids, he also was named as a co-participant in a 2010 indictment brought against another man by the U.N. Joint Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. That man was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in December 2015.

Murphy and Narayan became involved in the case in 2012 and used mutual legal assistance treaties to obtain records and documents from the Rwanda government to build the immigration fraud case against Ngombwa.

Evidence during the federal trial showed that Ngombwa was convicted in two local “gacaca” courts in Rwanda for his role in the genocide. But in the confusion following the war, Ngombwa made several false statements to gain refugee status and in 1998 immigrated to the United States.

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