Witness says 1500 killed when priest ordered church destruction - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
October 14, 2004

Witness says 1500 killed when priest ordered church destruction

-14/10/04

A prosecution witness in the trial of the first Catholic priest to be accused of genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has said that around 1500 men women and children died when Father Athanase Seromba ordered a bulldozer to destroy his Nyange Parish Church in Kibuye, Western Rwanda where Tutsis had taken refuge.

The witness code-named CBJ to protect his identity claimed that shortly before the event took place on April 16, 1994, a driver named Anastase asked the priest three times, "Father do you accept that I should destroy this church?".

The witness alleged that, Father Seromba responded by nodding during the first two times and the third time he told the driver, "Unless you yourself are Inyenzi, destroy it". Inyenzi is a Tutsi word for cockroach which was used to refer to Tutsis during the genocide.

CBJ who claimed to have been near the priest at the time told the court, "I was listening to Seromba who was standing in front of the church and I saw him touch his pockets, he then put his hands in his pockets and gave something to the driver".

The witness described that, "the driver smiled, withdrew and started destroying the church". CBJ continued to explain how the bulldozer hit three walls of the church while Tutsis were inside. He said, "The bulldozer first hit the main entrance and gradually the church fell on people".

He said that the destruction of the church lasted three hours and killed an estimated 1,500 Tutsi women, men, children and babies who were inside.

Father Athanase Seromba is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.

Seromba worked in Rwanda's western Kibuye province where some of the most brutal of the 1994 murders of the Rwandan genocide took place.

Last year at Seromba's initial court appearance he pleaded not guilty. Seromba is Hutu. A number of Hutu church leaders are suspected of ordering Hutu militias to kill Tutsis who sought shelter in local parishes.

The prosecution maintains that more than 2,000 people who were seeking sanctuary died in the church when they were attacked by Hutus in April 1994.

Seromba's lawyer has called the charges "rumours."

An estimated 500,000 Tutsis were killed in the three months of violence in 1994.

A day before the attack, CBJ said bulldozers arrived and parked outside the church, "Father Seromba held discussions close to the church and that many Interahamwe were at the church courtyard".

Earlier the witness also explained that there was another attack on the refugees in the church and, "Father Seromba watched from a balcony of a storey building where priests slept without taking part." However the witness also said, "He came down from time to time and talked to soldiers".

Witness says 1500 killed when priest ordered church destruction

-14/10/04

A prosecution witness in the trial of the first Catholic priest to be accused of genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has said that around 1500 men women and children died when Father Athanase Seromba ordered a bulldozer to destroy his Nyange Parish Church in Kibuye, Western Rwanda where Tutsis had taken refuge.

The witness code-named CBJ to protect his identity claimed that shortly before the event took place on April 16, 1994, a driver named Anastase asked the priest three times, "Father do you accept that I should destroy this church?".

The witness alleged that, Father Seromba responded by nodding during the first two times and the third time he told the driver, "Unless you yourself are Inyenzi, destroy it". Inyenzi is a Tutsi word for cockroach which was used to refer to Tutsis during the genocide.

CBJ who claimed to have been near the priest at the time told the court, "I was listening to Seromba who was standing in front of the church and I saw him touch his pockets, he then put his hands in his pockets and gave something to the driver".

The witness described that, "the driver smiled, withdrew and started destroying the church". CBJ continued to explain how the bulldozer hit three walls of the church while Tutsis were inside. He said, "The bulldozer first hit the main entrance and gradually the church fell on people".

He said that the destruction of the church lasted three hours and killed an estimated 1,500 Tutsi women, men, children and babies who were inside.

Father Athanase Seromba is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.

Seromba worked in Rwanda's western Kibuye province where some of the most brutal of the 1994 murders of the Rwandan genocide took place.

Last year at Seromba's initial court appearance he pleaded not guilty. Seromba is Hutu. A number of Hutu church leaders are suspected of ordering Hutu militias to kill Tutsis who sought shelter in local parishes.

The prosecution maintains that more than 2,000 people who were seeking sanctuary died in the church when they were attacked by Hutus in April 1994.

Seromba's lawyer has called the charges "rumours."

An estimated 500,000 Tutsis were killed in the three months of violence in 1994.

A day before the attack, CBJ said bulldozers arrived and parked outside the church, "Father Seromba held discussions close to the church and that many Interahamwe were at the church courtyard".

Earlier the witness also explained that there was another attack on the refugees in the church and, "Father Seromba watched from a balcony of a storey building where priests slept without taking part." However the witness also said, "He came down from time to time and talked to soldiers".

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