Arusha, January 28, 2002 (FH) - The genocide trial of former Bicumbi mayor Laurent Semanza resumed on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), with a lengthy debate over whether a former Rwandan minister should be allowed to testify as an expert witness. The court finally decided that Professor Pascal Ndengejeho could testify, but that he should limit his testimony to specific parts of his written submission.

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Ndengejeho is one of three expert witnesses expected to testify. The accused Semanza is also set to testify before defence closes its case. Ndengejeho was Rwanda's Minister for Information from 1992 to 1993. He also deputized for the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the 1992-1993 Arusha peace talks for Rwanda. He is to concentrate on two chapters of his written submission: "Conflict in Rwanda" and "The Great Bourgmestre (mayor) Laurent Semanza". Prosecution maintained that there was no basis for Ndengejeho to be admitted as an expert witness. But the court ruled that although the defence had failed to sufficiently present Ndengejeho's specific expertise, he would testify on the specified issues in the interest of justice. The witness then began his testimony. The other two expert witnesses expected are Antoine Nyetera, a Rwandan Tutsi of royal origin, and a French forensic 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 (SE0128e)