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ICTR convicts Rwandan Catholic priest of genocide

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website; JURIST news archive] Wednesday convicted [press release] a Roman Catholic priest for committing genocide and extermination during the mass killings [HRW backgrounder] of Tutsis and moderate Hutus that swept the central African nation in 1994. Father Athanase Seromba [case materials] was acquitted of less charges of complicity and incitement, but was nonetheless sentenced to 15 years in prison. Seromba, a Hutu, was in charge of a parish church where some 2000 Tutsis sought refuge from rampaging Hutus; the prosecution claimed that he ordered the bulldozing of the church and the shooting of all those who tried to escape. His lawyers argued in his defense that he was powerless to stop the carnage, in which all the sanctuary-seekers died.

Seromba is the first priest convicted by the ICTR, which sits in Arusha in neighboring Tanzania. Last month, a Rwandan military court convicted another Catholic priest [JURIST report], Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, to life in prison. Munyeshyaka has lived in exile in France since 1995. Before the genocide some 60% of Rwandans were Catholic, but many have since converted to Islam [BBC report]. South Africa's Mail and Guardian has more.

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