Arusha, March 6, 2001(FH) As the trial of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza resumed Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), prosecutors asked the court to issue a judicial notice that genocide occurred in Rwanda in 1994 and that two parties were engaged in a civil war in the country at the time. Prosecutor Chile Eboe Osuji (Canada/Nigeria) argued that such judicial notice would speed up proceedings, as it would spare the prosecution having to bring certain witnesses to testify to these facts.

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Osuji said ICTR jurisprudence had already established that there was a genocide, and that there was also a civil war going on between the government army (Forces Armées Rwandaises or FAR) and the Tutsi guerilla Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). He cited particularly the Tribunal’s judgements on former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, former mayor of Taba Jean-Paul Akayesu and former Kibuye prefect Clément Kayishema. The trial court sentenced all three men to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity. The court said it would deliberate on the prosecution request. Semanza’s case is 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. The trial continued Tuesday with the hearing of a tenth prosecution witness, dubbed “VM” to protect his identity. The witness, a Hutu from Bicumbi (central Rwanda) accused Semanza of having directed attacks on Tutsi refugees at Musha church (Gikoro commune) in April 1994. VM also told the court that Semanza had deliberately “flattened” Tutsis with a van that he was driving. Semanza, 46, was 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. BN/JC/PHD/FH (SE_0306e )