Arusha, March 12, 2001(FH) - Former Rwandan mayor and genocide suspect Laurent Semanza ordered and witnessed the killing of an infant in April 1994, a witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday. The 12th prosecution witness, dubbed "VAR" to protect his identity, told the court Semanza ordered a villager, Tharcisse Gatwa, to kill his Tutsi wife.

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When Gatwa failed to comply with the order, Semanza ordered Interahamwe (Hutu militia) to take a baby strapped onto the wife’s back and slam it against a wall. According to VAR, one of the Interahamwe followed that order, and when the baby did not die, Semanza ordered another militiaman to "finish off the child". The second Interahamwe speared the baby and "moved about with it on that spear", according to the witness. "Gatwa’s wife was seated on the ground weeping, surrounded by her children," he said. VAR said Gatwa told Semanza he could not kill his wife or anyone else. Semanza then replied that Gatwa’s whole family would be exterminated, VAR told the court. The witness told the court that Semanza addressed meetings attended by members of the CDR party and the Interahamwe, where he urged them to kill Tutsis. He said on separate occasions, he saw Semanza at Rwamagana and at the Nzige Health Centre. At the Nzige Health Centre, in April 1994, Semanza gave some Interahamwe members five guns, VAR told the court. VAR said at the beginning of his testimony that had been wounded in a grenade attack while taking refuge in Rwamagana in April 1994, and sometimes had difficulty speaking because of chest pains. The court adjourned an hour before the scheduled time when the witness said he was feeling unwell. Semanza, 56, is a former mayor of Bicumbi in Kigali rural prefecture, central Rwanda. He is charged with 14 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape. He was arrested in Cameroon in March 1996 and made his initial appearance at the Tribunal in February 1998. SW/JC/PHD/FH (SE%0312e)