Arusha, February 13, 2002 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza, testifying in his own genocide trial, on Wednesday told the InternationalCriminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that his family members and neighbours were killed in 1994 by the pro-Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). He said that about 84 people were killed during attacks between April 8th and April 14th, 1994.

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"There were (among them) my brothers and friends," hesaid. He told the court that he learned the information from surviving refugees who fled to Goma (in ex-Zaire) and found him there. He said he left Bicumbi with his family on April 8th and finally fled to Goma. Semanza said he was godfather to about 15 Tutsi children. He said he was told that where the killers could identify these children as Tutsis, they were killed. The accused is a former mayor of Bicumbi in Kigali Rural province, central Rwanda. He has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The prosecution says he helped plan, organize and carry out massacres of Tutsis in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Semanza told the court that many people went to his house in April 1994, to seek refuge and to find out why gunshots could be heard. These people were both Hutus and Tutsis, he added. "I was made to understand that the RPFon its arrival killed some of these people". The former mayor started his testimony Wednesday morning. He is the last witness in the trial. Semanza was responding to questions from his lead counsel Charles Taku of Cameroon and USA. He gave details about his family and previous working experience before he became mayor. Semanza said he originally had ten children but lost two. He dabbed his eyes as he told the court how one child died of cholera when they were in exile in Goma. His testimony continues on Thursday. ArgumentsThe start of Semanza's testimony was delayed by argument over who would conduct the examination of the witness. Defence wanted both Taku and co-counsel Sadikou Alao of Benin to conduct it, but prosecution argued that it should be done by one lawyer only. Defence argued that Semanza was "no ordinary witness". "He has been waiting for this day for the last six years," Taku said. The procedure in this Trial Chamber has been that one counsel handles one accused. But the court reconsidered this decision and granted the appeal by Semanza's defence. The trial 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/JC/FH (SE-0213f)