Arusha, October 6th, '99 (FH) - The trial of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza is to start at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on November 10th, ICTR spokesman Kingsley Moghalu said on Wednesday. Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi, in greater Kigali prefecture, central Rwanda.

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He faces trial for genocide, crimes against humanity including incitement to rape, and violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. On September 29th, the court denied a defence motion seeking to have the war crimes charges dropped. However, it gave the prosecution two weeks to amend Semanza's indictment to substantiate its argument that certain charges amount to war crimes. In particular, it ordered the prosecution to provide a "concise statement of facts indicating the nexus between the crimes allegedly committed and the non-international armed conflict in Rwanda [at the time of the genocide]". Moghalu said this decision was in line with ICTR decisions taken during the trials of former Rwandan mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu and former prefect of Kibuye (western Rwanda) Clément Kayishema. It was during the Kayishema trial that the "nexus" requirement was established, putting the onus on the prosecution to prove the link between the accused's alleged crimes and the war in Rwanda. "This continues the trend in [ICTR] jurisprudence with regard to war crimes," Moghalu said. "This has not been an easy charge to stick onto an accused. "At an initial appearance on June 24th, Semanza pleaded not guilty to all fourteen counts contained in his indictment. Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi for more than 20 years. At the time of the genocide in 1994, he was chairman of the MRND party of former president Juvénal Habyarimana for the greater Kigali area. He was also a member of the MRND's central committee. According to the prosecution, Semanza was an influential person throughout the region and had authority over the milita and the population. Two Belgian lawyers have been assigned to Semanza's case: André Dumont and his co-counsel Albert Evrard. The former mayor was arrested in March 1996 in Cameroon and transferred to the UN detention facility in Arusha in November 1997. JC/FH (SE§1006e)