Arusha, February 6, 2002 (FH) - Lawyers for former Bicumbi mayor Laurent Semanza on Wenesday urged the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to reverse a previous ruling, barring one of its expert witnesses from testifying in his genocide trial. The court had earlier ruled that a French forensic expert, Dominique Lecomte, would not testify because the defence had failed to meet a deadline to submit his written report.

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But Semanza's co-counsel Sadikou Alao of Benin blamed delays on the ICTR Registry and said the defence had been unable to meet the court's deadline. "The expeditious proceedings of the court were not at par with the administrative machinery," he argued. He said the Tribunal had not made timely arrangements for the expert to travel to Rwanda to complete his report. The court will deliberate before handing down a decision. Defence had scheduled three expert witnesses, plus the testimony of the accused, before closing its case. Their first expert witness, former Rwandan minister Professor Pascal Ndengejeho, completed his testimony on Tuesday. Twenty-four defence witnesses have testified so far, including Professor Ndengejeho. The second defence expert witness, Antoine Nyetera, is scheduled to start his testimony on Thursday. He is a Tutsi of royal descent. Lecomte, if he is admitted, would be the third expert. Semanza, a former mayor of Bicumbi (Kigali province in central Rwanda), 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. The case is before ICTR's Trial Chamber Three, 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-0206f)