Catholic priest convicted of Rwandan genocide

The United Nations war-crimes court for Rwanda on Wednesday convicted a Roman Catholic priest, the first it has tried, of genocide and sentenced him to 15 years for his role in the 1994 mass killings.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found Father Athanase Seromba guilty on two of four counts he faced in connection with the genocide in which about 800 000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, died.

“The chamber finds you guilty of genocide and extermination and sentences you to a single term of 15 years in prison,” chief Judge Andrefia Vaz said, reading the verdict of the three-member panel.

The priest was acquitted on lesser counts of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide, the court said.

Seromba, a 43-year-old Hutu, had pleaded not guilty to the charges that stemmed notably from the destruction of his parish church in the western town of Nyange where about 2 000 Tutsi faithful had sought shelter in April 1994.

He was accused of ordering the church levelled by bulldozers, which led the deaths of all inside, and instructing radical Hutu militia to shoot Tutsis who tried to flee the carnage.

Seromba had claimed he was a simple parish priest and powerless to stop the killing.

Prosecutors had called for the priest to be given the court’s maximum sentence of life in prison.—Sapa-AFP

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