Seromba trial: a fruitless confrontation

08 May 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

On the foggy day of September 20, 2004, the public gallery at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was packed. It was the first time that a priest from the powerful Rwandan Catholic church was appearing before the ICTR. However, Father Athanase Seromba kept the crowds waiting. He boycotted the trial for a week to protest the negotiations between the ICTR and Rwanda on transferring cases. On April 27, 2006, his trial ended in a similarly fruitless confrontation, consummating what had seemed to be the unlikely symbolic trial of the Church's role in Rwanda in 1994.

Average height with a round face, wearing a black suit jacket and a priest's collar instead of a tie, this man of the cloth accused of having nearly 2,000 parishioners massacred in 1994 in Nyange church in western Rwanda, finally entered the courtroom. It was September 2004 and his trial had officially opened a week earlier. A wasted week sanctioned by "warnings" from the judges to the defense lawyers, Alfred Pognon and Patrice Monthé, who, like their client, also boycotted the courtroom. The defense was off to a rocky relationship with the court.

Defense hassles

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