Arusha, February 7, 2002 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday upheld an earlier decision rejecting a scheduled defence expert witness in the trial of former Bicumbi mayor Laurent Semanza. It also ruled that another witness would not testify as an expert but could give evidence as a factual witness.

1 min 57Approximate reading time

The court said that although the Chamber sympathized with the defence position, it found itself without the requisite legal instruments to revert a previous decision barring the third expert witness. On January 29th, the court ruled that French forensic expert Dominique Lecomte would not testify because the defence had failed to meet a deadline for submission of his written report. But Semanza's defence argued in a motion on Wednesday that administrative delays by the ICTR Registry had made it impossible for defence to meet the deadline. The defence suffered another blow when the court ruled that the second and remaining scheduled expert, Antoine Nyetera, could not testify as an expert witness because he did not have the required expertise in any relevant aspect that the Chamber is dealing with. The prosecution objected to Nyetera testifying as an expert, questioning whether his qualifications as a fine artist were enough to make him an expert witness. Nyetera told the court: "I devoted myself for more than 40 years of my life to culture historical, sociological and political analysis," Nyetera said. He said part of these activities included a recent paper he wrote on "The Roots of the Tutsi-Hutu conflict. "The court ruled that Nyetera would now testify as a factual witness. It warned that the testimony should concentrate on specific aspects. Defence had earlier spent a lot of time raising issues on crimes allegedly committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), while "forgetting Semanza", said the court. "There has to be a nexus with the Accused," said presiding judge Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia. Nyetera, a Rwandan Tutsi of royal descent, presented his credentials on Thursday morning, saying he was a Tutsi from the seventh generation of KingKigeli III Ndabarasa. He also gave a chronology of his academic and professional activities. Nyetera started his testimony in the afternoon. He said that Semanza had a very good relationship with the people in his commune. "He served all well, without prejudice or discrimination," he added. The witness told the court that if there was any commune that was different from all others in terms of development, it was Bicumbi (Kigali province in central Rwanda). He said Semanza kept up annually with the scheduled economic development plan of the commune, throughout his tenure as mayor. Semanza was mayor for close to 20 years, until he lost his post in 1993. 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. His defence maintains that he is a victim of "political vendetta". The case is before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of St. Kittsand Nevis and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. SW/JC/FH (SE-0207e)