Arusha, February 16, 2000 (FH) - The defence lawyer for genocide suspect Laurent Semanza on Wednesday asked the Appeals Court of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to order his client's release and return to Cameroon on the grounds that his arrest there was illegal and that the prosecution repeatedly failed to respect his rights. .

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Cameroonian co-counsel Charles Acheleke Taku pointed out that the facts of the case were "the same, similar or even identical" to that of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a leading genocide suspect whom the Appeals Court ordered released on procedural grounds last November. Semanza, like Barayagwiza, was arrested in Cameroon in March 1996. However, he says he did not receive a formal indictment until after his transfer to the ICTR prison in Arusha in November 1997. He says his provisional detention in Cameroon violated his rights, as did the extension of the detention, and that the prosecution ignored its obligation to file an indictment within 30 days. In addition, he says he was discriminated against, in relation to other accused who were arrested in Cameroon at the same time. Taku is challenging the Trial Chamber's decision of October 6th, 1999, in which it threw out Semanza's original motion. The Trial Chamber ruled that "an accused, before his transfer to the custody of the Tribunal, has no remedy under the Statute and Rules for the detention and acts by sovereign States over which the Tribunal does not exercise control. "But Semanza's defence lawyer said that "if this rule is allowed to stand, it is going to give problems". He claimed it was wrong because the Tribunal could in fact exercise control. Taku said that if a country (in this case Cameroon) was refusing to hand a suspect over to the Tribunal, the prosecution had only to signal this to the Trial Chamber, and the Chamber could refer the matter to the UN Security Council. He also argued that prosecution documents submitted in the Appeal should be thrown out for several reasons. These documents seek to show that, during Semanza's lengthy initial detention in Cameroon, the prosecution was doing all in its power to obtain his speedy transfer to Arusha. Taku argued that these documents should have been submitted at the Trial Chamber level, and that in any case they were full of factual errors and misrepresentations. For example, a letter from the Cameroonian authorities said that former ICTR Registrar Andronico Adede paid several visits to Cameroon between March and October 1997 to exert pressure for Semanza's transfer. But Adede left his post in February that year. Taku also argued that some documents referred to Barayagwiza and not to Semanza. This was notably the case for an affidavit signed by US war crimes ambassador David Sheffer, putting pressure on the Cameroonian authorities to transfer the Rwandan detainees. "The instruments by which he was arrested and that were served on him were documents that have nothing whatever to do with him," Taku told the court. Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte takes the stand on Wednesday afternoon to argue her case. Defence lawyer under investigationTaku, who is normally Semanza's co-counsel, was arguing for the accused in the absence of lead counsel André Dumont of Belgium. The court heard that Dumont has asked to be removed from the case, and that Semanza has also rejected him. However, Dumont has not yet been officially relieved of his duties, because he is under investigation by the ICTR Registry for having disguised the identity of one of his investigators. If he is found to have done so knowingly, he could be sanctioned for committing a serious professional fault. Presiding judge Claude Jorda (France) asked the accused if he agreed that Taku should represent him in the meantime. Once Semanza had agreed, Jorda ruled that the proceedings should go ahead "in the interests of justice".