Arusha, 26 November 2007 (FH) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) asked again Monday for the sentence of life in prison against Abbot Athanase Seromba, who had been sentenced in first instance to 15 years in prison, noted the Hirondelle agency.   

1 min 45Approximate reading time

Vicar of the Nyange parish, in the North-West of the country, during the 1994 genocide, Seromba was convicted for his role in the massacre of almost 1 500 people who had taken refuge in his church in April 1994.
"The sentence (15 years in prison) is not proportional to the crime", pleaded Alfred Orono Orono, representative of the prosecutor. Orono Orono reproached the first instance judges of having giving too much weight to the extenuating circumstances. During closing arguments in first instance, on 27 June, the prosecutor had requested a prison sentence of life.
According to the first instance judgment, Seromba subscribed to the decision of the administrative authorities to destroy his church, which the collapse killed at least 1 500 Tutsis that had sought refuge there.
The church was destroyed on 16 April 1994 by a bulldozer. Always according to this judgment, the priest advised the driver of the bulldozer to begin the demolition with the most fragile part of the building.
The first instance judges thus convicted him for "assistance and encouragement" to commit the crimes of genocide and extermination. Orono Orono asked the appeal chamber to also convict him for planning and perpetration of the genocide. The two parties had appealed the judgment.
For his part, the defence council, Patrice Monthé, denounced "the fragile and extremely thin character of the evidence of the prosecution" and accused the first instance judges of "having gone too quickly".
"He (Seromba) did all that was in his power" to oppose the massacre, explained Monthé, stressing that his client "did not have any authority on anyone". The Cameroonian lawyer pointed out that even the Canadian General Roméo Dallaire, "head of the United Nations force", had not been able to do anything to stop the genocide.
Addressing his judges after his lawyer, Abbot Seromba claimed his innocence. "I count on you; I rely on your wisdom so that the world knows that I am innocent ". "I did all that I could; God protect you and that his will is done ", added the priest.
The judgment will be rendered in a few months, "at a convenient moment" affirmed the chamber.
Of the 29 persons convicted since the beginning of the tribunal, six currently await the result of their appeal. One of them, Aloys Simba, will know Tuesday the result of his appeal.

© Hirondelle News Agency