Arusha, December 5th, 2000 (FH) – Former Rwandan mayor and genocide suspect Laurent Semanza said on Tuesday he will boycott his trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), to protest court decisions he considers unfair, the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. Semanza did not appear before Trial Chamber Three Monday morning.

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His lawyers, Charles Taku (Cameroon/USA) and Sadikou Alao (Benin) said Semanza had handed them a letter announcing that he would no longer appear before his judges and that he did not want to be represented in court. On Monday, as his trial resumed, Semanza asked for an adjournment because he was suffering from dental problems. An ICTR doctor was called and pronounced him fit enough to continue. Proceedings went on. The court also dismissed a number of defence motions, which it termed “ frivolous ” and an “ abuse of procedure ”. “ Such pressure on my defence team leads me to think that I will not benefit from full defence rights, although I have been accused of very serious crimes, ” says Semanza in his letter to his lawyers. “ Consequently, I am forced to stop appearing or being represented in this trial, unless and until the Chamber reverses its decision and leaves my team free choice in its means of defence. Unless the court changes its attitude, it is obvious that I will not benefit from a just and equitable trial, respectful of my fundamental rights… ”Semanza’s protest bears an uncanny resemblance to that of another ICTR detainee, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who boycotted his trial from its start on October 23rd, and ordered his lawyers to do the same. Despite a number of decisions by the court, the status of Barayagwiza’s lawyers still remains ambiguous. In the Semanza case, however, presiding judge Yakov Ostovsky of Russia took a firm line. “ I"d like, on behalf of the Chamber, to instruct the Registry to send a letter to the accused, saying it is his right to attend the trial, ” Ostrovsky said. “ If he decides not to do so, then the door is still open. If he is absent, we will proceed without his presence. ”Ostrovsky further warned Semanza’s lawyers that “ Under Rule 45, counsel will represent the accused and conduct the case to finality ”, and that lawyers could be subject to sanctions if they did not do so. “ It is necessary for counsel to be aware of their rights and obligations before this Tribunal, ” the judge continued. “ It should be clear. The Chamber does not release counsels from an assignment they have accepted. “ The accused is trying to manipulate the court, ” Judge Ostrovsky said. “ Yesterday he said I can’t continue because I am not well, but the doctor said he was able to. Today this is a new attempt to hinder the proceedings of the court. ” The judge said that Semanza’s lawyers should not support their client in his attempts to obstruct the proceedings and that they should explain to him it was not in his interests either. “ In 20 years of practice, I have never manipulated any court, ” Taku told the judges. “ I am not in collusion with my client. ” The lawyers asked for time to consult with Semanza and an adjournment was granted. The case resumes Tuesday afternoon. JC/FH (SE%1205e)