On 27 and 28 June 2006, the Prosecution and the Defence in the case of Athanase Seromba, a Catholic priest formerly assigned to the Nyange Parish in Kivumu commune, Kibuye préfecture, Rwanda, presented their final submissions before Trial Chamber III of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Seromba is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide (an alternative count), conspiracy to commit to genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity. He is alleged to have helped plan the killing of Tutsis in his area during the genocide of 1994 and to have ordered his church to be bulldozed while there were still more than 2,000 refugees sheltering inside, causing their death.
During final submissions, the Prosecution called for the conviction of the Accused and the imposition of a prison sentence for the remainder of his life. They reasserted that the moral authority Seromba held as a priest put him in a position of power and allowed him to give orders, and reviewed testimony they said demonstrated Seromba himself gave the command for his church to be levelled.
The Defence responded that the Prosecution had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and called for Seromba’s acquittal. They said Seromba did not have a history of discriminating against Tutsis before the events in question and that the driver of the bulldozer testified that Seromba never gave the order to flatten the church.
The trial commenced on 20 September 2004 before Trial Chamber III, composed of Judge Andrésia Vaz ( Senegal), presiding, Judge Karin Hökborg ( Sweden) and Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam ( Burkina Faso). The Prosecution is led by Senior Trial Attorneys Silvana Arbia and Jonathan Moses. The Defence is headed by Patrice Monthé and Barnabé Nekuie, both of Cameroon. The Prosecution presented 15 witnesses over 25 trial days, and the Defence called 24 witnesses over 42 trial days.
In addition to Seromba, 26 Accused are presently on trial or awaiting judgment. The Tribunal has handed down judgments involving 28 people, of whom 25 were convicted and three acquitted.