Both Vatican and Human Rights Watch troubled by Rwanda priest charges

Both the Holy See and Human Rights Watch have expressed strong misgivings following the arrest of Belgian missionary priest Fr Guy Theunis on war-crimes charges in Rwanda.

CLICK HERECatholic World News reports that Archbishop Guido Pecorari, the apostolic nuncio in Rwanda, is converned that other missionaries dmay ecide to leave the African country.

Fr Theunis, a member of the White Fathers, was arrested on 6 September, and charged with inciting violence in connection with the genocidal massacres of 1994. After a hearing before an informal court, he was returned to prison to face trial. If convicted of the charges he would face the death penalty.

Archbishop Pecorari, who is in Rome this week, said that the arrest raises concern that the Rwandan government may intend to "involve the Church in the recurrent-- and totally false-- accusations of having supported a genocidal ideology."

"The Rwandan government has always said that he wants to maintain good relations with the Holy See," the nuncio said. "But we notice some disturbing signs."

Meanwhile the respected international human rights body Human Rights Watch has criticised Rwanda for arresting the priest.

"There was absolutely no evidence of incitement and I think he was charged based on hearsay, emotionalism and association," the head of the US-based Human Rights Watch's board of directors, Jane Olson, told Reuters in Kigali. "We are disappointed that the charges raised against him were not dismissed because there were no facts to support the charges."

But Rwandan officials said the traditional court conducted the hearing in an open and fair manner.

"Everybody saw the amount of evidence that was given against him, but I don't want to comment on what the courts will do," said Johnston Busingye, Rwanda's justice secretary-general.

Belgian prime minister is reportedly set to meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame over the matter.

Rwandan genocide charges trouble Vatican (Catholic World News 14/9/05)
Human rights group slams Rwanda for arresting priest (Independent Catholic News/Catholic Information Service for Africa 14/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Human Rights Watch
Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers)

Belgian priest arrested on Rwanda genocide charges (CathNews 9/9/05)

Rights group criticizes priest's Rwanda arrest (CNN/RFeuters 12/9/05)
Belgian priest arrested on suspicion of inciting genocide (catholicireland.net 13/9/05)
Accused Belgian priest's case moved to Rwandan criminal court (Catholic News Service 12/9/05)
Missionary Society Issues Statement Following Arrest of Priest (Catholic Information Service for Africa 8/9/05)
Belgian priest defended in Rwanda genocide case (Catholic World News 13/9/05)
'Genocide' priest faces death penalty (Associated Press/The Australian 13/9/05)
Priest on genocide charge (Associated Press/Courier-Mail 13/9/05)
Belgian priest goes before Rwandan court (Monsters & Critics/United Press International 11/9/05)
Belgian priest's arrest in Rwanda forces more questions on genocide (Catholic News Service 9/9/05)
Belgian priest arrested on Rwanda genocide charges (Catholic World News 8/9/05)
Belgian missionary still detained in Kigali (Missionary Service News Agency 8/9/05)

15 Sep 2005