Arusha, April 25, 2002 (FH) - The prosecution in the case of former Bicumbi Mayor and genocide suspect Laurent Semanza completed its evidence in rebuttal at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday, after withdrawing three listed witnesses. Semanza's defence intends to call witnesses in rejoinder from May 7, 2002.

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Prosecutor Chile Eboe Osuji had scheduled six witnesses in rebuttal evidence regarding Semanza's alibi but only three actually testified. The prosecution indicated it would call rebuttal witnesses when defence closed their case in February. Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi, Kigali rural province in central Rwanda. He is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape and persecution in his Bicumbi commune and nearby Gikoro commune. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecution maintains that he was involved in planning the killing of Tutsis, including training of militia and distribution of weapons in his commune. Semanza allegedly committed most of the crimes between April 9th and 13th, 1994. However, in his testimony he said he left Bicumbi on April 9th, and some defence witnesses corroborated this evidence. During his testimony, Semanza stated that a date he maintains was April 9th, 1994, on a statement he had given to judicial authorities in Cameroon where he was arrested in 1996 had been "erased". The date is crucial because it touches on his alibi. This contentious date led to heated debates between the prosecution and Semanza's lawyers Charles Taku of Cameroon and USA and Sadikou Alao of Benin. The prosecution said it would call rebuttal witnesses as soon as defence closed its case to challenge Semanza's alibi. It was the first time in the Tribunal that prosecution has called rebuttal evidence. The six witnesses listed by the prosecution were a Kenyan forensic expert Antipas Nyanjwa, a Cameroonian Prosecutor Messina Temme, three protected witness dubbed "DCH," "XXK" and "XXL" and an expert witness who testified for the prosecution Professor André Guichaoua. Defence had objected saying that the prosecution wanted to introduce new evidence. The first rebuttal witness DCH testified on April 15th, and Professor Guichaoua on April 22nd. The prosecution first withdrew witness "XXL" due to technical problems. On Tuesday this week, witness "XXK" testified entirely in closed session. It was also during this time that the prosecution withdrew from its list of witnesses, Cameroonian Prosecutor Messina Temme. On Thursday, Nyanjwa from Kenya was due to testify but Osuji also withdrew this witness after arguments from both the prosecution and defence regarding the contentious date in Semanza's statement. "The prosecutor did not have to go as far as Nairobi to get someone to read what we could all read three months ago," Alao argued, referring to the same date. But the prosecution said defence had not clarified the question of the date. Both parties agreed that there was no date indicated but only the month of April. The prosecution then stated its rebuttal evidence was concluded and defence indicated it would call witnesses in rejoinder. A motion by the prosecution to have the defence provide names of the witnesses expected to testify in rejoinder to rebuttal evidence was rejected by the Chamber. The defence appealed to the Chamber to make a specific order that the Registry and other department of the Tribunal accord their case if they were to prepare their witnesses by the scheduled date of May 7th. Presiding judge Yakov Ostrovksy of Russia said that the "matter is substantial" and the Chamber would look into it and take all necessary measures. He also added that all parties would be informed about the confirmation of this date. This case is before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. SW/FH (SE-0425e)