Arusha, December 12th, 2000 (FH) – The genocide trial of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza was on Tuesday adjourned before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), after the Tribunal failed to locate three prosecution witnesses. Presiding judge Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia said the trial would resume on March 5th.

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Semanza's case is alternating before the court with that of three suspects linked to genocide crimes in the Cyangugu region of southwest Rwanda. The ICTR goes into judicial recess from December 15th to January 15th. Before it adjourned, the court said that hearings of prosecution witnesses should be completed by April 2001. Nine prosecution witnesses have so far testified since the trial started on October 16th. Semanza's defence also tried to obtain a revision of a previous court decision sanctioning them for motions deemed "frivolous" and an "abuse of process". However, Judge Ostrovsky said there was no provision in the ICTR Rules allowing such a move. The accused is defended by Charles Taku (Cameroon/USA) and Sadikou Alao of Benin. Semanza, a former mayor of Bicumbi, is charged with 14 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity related to massacres of Tutsis in the communes of Gikoro and Bicumbi, central Rwanda, in 1994. At the time of the genocide, Semanza was a nominated member of parliament of the MRND party, and was allegedly very influential. Semanza is appearing before Trial Chamber Three, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), George Williams of Jamaica and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. GG/JC/FH(SE%1212E)