Arusha, March 8, 2001(FH) - The trial of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza was adjourned Thursday afternoon because the twelfth prosecution witness had not yet arrived in Arusha. The case is expected to resume on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The eleventh prosecution witness, dubbed "VA" to protect her identity, finished her testimony on Thursday. In her testimony, she said that Bicumbi mayor Semanza and Paul Bisengimana, the mayor of neighbouring Gikoro commune (central Rwanda) "cut off an arm and leg each" of a victim among refugees in Musha church in 1994. VA said about 4,000 people had taken refuge in the church. She said Semanza led an attack on April 13th, 1994, during which Tutsi children were ordered out of the Musha church and killed. According to VA, Interahamwe (Hutu militia) and soldiers who accompanied Semanza threw grenades, shot at and clubbed the children to death. The witness, a Hutu woman, said that she was thrown into a mass grave with corpses of victims from the church. When the assailants discovered she was not yet dead, VA told the court, they clubbed her on the head and stripped her naked. However, VA said she and another female victim managed to crawl out of the mass grave and a villager treated their wounds. Semanza’s defence counsel Charles Taku (Cameroon/US) said there were contradictions in VA’s testimony in court and her written statement to UN investigators. Taku said VA told the investigators that Semanza “cut only arms” of the victim, but in court she said “arms and legs”. Semanza is charged with 14 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape. He was arrested in Cameroon in March 1996 and made his initial appearance at the Tribunal in February 1998. Prosecution maintains he was very influential in Bicumbi, central Rwanda. The accused is appearing before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of Jamaica and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. SW/JC/PHD/FH (SE_0308E)