Arusha, November 14th, 2000 (FH) - Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday frequently cautioned defence counsel for former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza to desist from distorting statements made by a prosecution witness during cross-examination, reports the independent news agency Hirondelle. "All the time you are referring to what the witness said before [during the examination in chief] and all the time you are distorting his statements," a seemingly unhappy judge Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia told Semanza's co-counsel Sadikou Alao (Benin).

1 min 4Approximate reading time

The defence counsel was cross-examining the fourth prosecution witness, a survivor of the 1994 genocide designated 'VN' to protect his identity. 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. At one point, Semanza's defence was reprimanded by both the judges and the prosecution for quoting witness VN as having confessed that he was a spy. "The witness didn't say anything like that, " prosecutor Chile Osuji protested. "We have some problems understanding this," Judge George Williams of Jamaica told Semanza's co-counsel. "Where is this line of questioning taking us?"Alao argued that Semanza was simply a mere citizen like the rest. He said that the simple fact of being rich did not mean that Semanza had the power to incite people to commit genocide. Semanza, 56, is appearing before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), George Williams of Jamaica and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. GG/JC/PHD/FH (SE%1114E )