Father Athanase Seromba, former Catholic priest at Nyange parish, Kibuye prefecture, today appeared before Judge Navanethem Pillay and pleaded not guilty to four counts charging him with genocide, or, in the alternative complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity for extermination.
The accused, who surrendered to the Tribunal and was transferred from Italy to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha on 6 February 2002, is alleged to have committed the crimes when he was priest in charge of the parish in 1994.
It is alleged that thousands of Tutsi fled their homes in and around Kivumu commune and sought refuge at the Nyange parish to escape the attacks against them, which began on 6 April 1994.
Instead of assisting them, Father Seromba is alleged to have planned and organised their extermination. The accused is alleged to have ordered the Interahamwe and militia to launch attacks to kill the Tutsi. “The Interahamwe and the militia attacked with traditional arms and poured fuel through the roof of the Church, while gendarmes and communal police launched grenades and killed the refugees,” the charges state.
After failing to kill all the refugees in the parish, Father Seromba is said to have ordered the demolition of the Church saying, “the Hutu people were numerous and could build another one.”
The Church was then bulldozed and its roof collapsed crashed killing more than 2000 Tusti refugees gathered inside. It is alleged that the few survivors were attacked and killed by the Interahamwe.
It is also alleged that Father Seromba ordered the Interahamwe to clean the “rubbish” following which the bodies of the victims were dumped into mass graves. After this almost all of the remaining Tutsi population of about 6000 in the commune was killed.