Arusha, February 18, 2002 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza, on trial for genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) told the court on Monday that he had been wrongfully arrested and detained. Semanza, who is testifying on his own defence, said that some details in a statement he made on his arrest in 1996 had been "erased".

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He also said it had been discovered that some recordings of his voice, allegedly made in 1994, had been recorded in 1996. "But they still keep me in detention," he said. Semanza, 57, is a former mayor of Bicumbi in Kigali Rural province, central Rwanda. He was arrested in Cameroon in 1996 and transferred to the United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF) in Arusha in November 1997. On Monday, Semanza gave details of his flight from Rwanda in 1994, through ex-Zaire, Central African Republic and finally to Cameroon. He said he stayed there until 1996, when he was arrested along with eleven other people. He said that the gendarmerie in Cameroon informed them that the arrest was made on the basis of a warrant issued by the Kigali (Rwandan) government. "We were questioned and later transferred to a local prison", he said. The former mayor told the court that some out of the twelve arrested in Cameroon were released. But others including himself and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who is also facing trial at the ICTR, were detained. He added that when they asked for a letter explaining why they were to remain in custody, an officer in charge of the prison said he had received a phone call to that effect. Later, Semanza was transferred to the ICTR detention facility. Semanza said he later noted that some parts of the statement he made had been "rubbed" (out). He said he noted in particular the date that he indicated he had left his home in Bicumbi; April 9th 1994, had been “erased”. "When we got to Arusha, you recall that the [ICTR] Appeals Chambers decided to release Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. But unfortunately for him, when Kigali reacted robustly he was not released," said Semanza. "Indeed I am not the only one to have suffered injustice in this Tribunal," he added. Barayagwiza is one of three accused in the so-called Media Trial also before the ICTR. In 1999, the ICTR Appeals Chamber ordered him released, on the grounds that his rights had been grossly violated during provisional detention. However, the Appeals Chamber reversed its decision after the Prosecutor presented "new facts" to the court. Semanza is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape and persecution in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes. He has pleaded not guilty. He started his testimony on February 13th and is the last witness before the defence closes its case. He will continue testifying on Tuesday morning. This case started on October 16th, 2000, 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/JA/FH (SE-0218g)