Arusha, June 18th, '99 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Friday authorized the prosecution to amend its indictment against former mayor of Bicumbi (greater Kigali prefecture, central Rwanda) Laurent Semanza. Semanza had previously been charged with seven counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, relating to massacres of Tutsis in the Gikoro and Bicumbi communes.

1 min 6Approximate reading time

The prosecution has now been authorized to add seven extra charges, including rape. Prosecutor David Spencer (U. S. ) told the court that since the initial indictment was confirmed on October 23rd, 1997, new witnesses had provided fresh evidence. Spencer said the changes to the indictment would help the prosecution to prove its case against the accused. The new indictment also contains charges relating to Semanza's criminal responsibility as a leader. Spencer told the court that the accused was "a very powerful man with influence over the people carrying out genocidal acts". According to the prosecution, Semanza planned, ordered and encouraged the militamen, especially the Interahamwe, and other people to rape or otherwise violate the dignity of Tutsi women". Semanza is accused, for example, of discussing with a group of people and ordering them to rape Tutsi women before killing them. The prosecution says two women were subsequently raped and one was killed. The defendant will now have to plead guilty or not guilty to the new charges. The trial is taking place before Trial Chamber Two, presided by Tanzanian judge William Sekule. Semanza's Belgian defence lawyer André Dumont asked the court whether "men who are capable of looting and killing" would need permission to carry out sexual abuse or even rape. "That seems to me totally unrealistic," he said. Dumont argued that Semanza had never been involved in acts of rape. AT/JC/FH (SE'a70618e)