Arusha, May 15, 2003 (FH) - The former mayor of Bicumbi in Kigali rural province; Laurent Semanza, was on Thursday sentenced to 25 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Semanza, 59, was unanimously found guilty by Trial Chamber Three on five counts out of the 14 he was initially charged with: complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (rape, torture, murder, extermination).

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Chamber three in this case was presided over by Judge Yakov Ostrovsky fromRussia. The twenty five years are divided into both consecutive and concurrent jail terms. He was sentenced to 15 years each on two counts that will be served concurrently. On the other counts, the tribunal handed down 7 years (rape) 10 years on two counts (torture and murder). The two maximum sentences (10and 15 years) will be served consecutively (one after the other). The appeals chamber had earlier requested that the tribunal reduce Semanza's sentence in case he was found guilty because of some previous violations of his rights when arrested and detained before being transferred to Arusha. The chamber ruled that six months would be deducted form the final sentence;therefore Semanza will serve 24 and a half years. Semanza was unanimously found not guilty on separate charges that included genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity (murder, persecution and rape). A majority decision was also reached by the chamber in another separate indictment of crimes against humanity (extermination) and war crimes. One judge dissented on each count. The judges concluded that Semanza played a key role in massacres in Bicumbi and Gikoro during the 1994 genocide. They singled out four locations as where he was most active: Ruhanga and Musha churches, Mabare mosques and Mwulire sector. It was the consideration of the judges that even though the accused never personally took part in the attacks, in Musha, Ruhanga and Mwulire hills, he aided those who committed the massacres. However, the chamber found that in early April, 1994, Semanza went to Musha church and cut one, Rusanganwa, on the forehead. The victim later died of the injuries. The chamber also found that the accused incited people to rape Tutsi women in Gikoro. A speech he made on April 13 culminated in the rape of one woman and the death of another. In rendering its verdict, the chamber found that the high number of deaths in Musha church constituted “aggravating circumstances” against the accused in view of the influence he exerted in his community. Mitigating circumstances in the trial were the development projects the accused had initiated while he was the "bourgmestre" of Bicumbi. The trial began on October 16, 2000 and has been in deliberation since June19, 2002. Both the prosecution and defence teams called 27 witnesses each in the trial. It lasted one and a half years. Semanza is defended by Charles Takou from Cameroon and the USA, who is assisted by Chile EboeOsuji, a Nigerian Canadian. The accused had pleaded not guilty. He was arrested in Cameroon in 1996 and transferred the next year to UN detention facility in Arusha. Judge Ostrovsky was assisted in chamber three by George Lloyd Williams of SaintKitts and Nevis and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. KN/GA/CE/FH (SE'0515e)