Arusha, May 14, 2003 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda(ICTR) will on May 15 pass judgement in the trial of the former mayor ofBicumbi, Laurent Semanza, official sources have disclosed. Semanza is charged with 14 counts in regard to massacres in Bicumbi andneighbouring Gikoro.

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He is charged among others with genocide, complicity ingenocide, crimes against humanity, direct and public incitement to genocideand war crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR started deliberating the case on June 19,2002 after all parties had argued their case for 18 months. The trial beganon October 16, 2000 and both the prosecution and the defence called 27witnesses each. The prosecutionApart from the massacres of Tutsis in Bicumbi and Gikoro, the prosecutoraccuses Semanza of planning, ordering and encouraging militia especiallyInterahamwe and others to rape and perform other demeaning acts againstTutsi women. It is also alleged that the accused armed and trained Interahamwe (the youthwing of former president Habyarimana's party, the Mouvement républicain pourla démocratie et le développement MRND). It is also alleged that he tookpart in massacres, especially in Musha and Ruhanga parishes. Prosecution witness, “DCH” told the tribunal that preparations to attackRuhanga took place on April 14, 1994 at a place called Kabuga. It is therethat Semanza called for military assistance and vehicles to transport theattackers. “He is the one who requested firearms for those who were unarmed”, the witness said. The witness also revealed that he spoke to the accused between April 8 and12, 1994 at a roadblock near a mosque at Kabuga where Tutsi women werehaving sexual relationships with gendarmes. The accused is then said to haveordered the death of the women. Another witness, codenamed “VN” testified in November 2000 as having seenSemanza at Mwulire hill where many Tutsis had taken refuge between April 11and 18, 1994. According to the witness, the accused, armed and wearing amilitary uniform, arrived with a group of soldiers, Interahamwe and acounsellor from the prefecture. “He started shooting at the refugeesassembled in a football field next to the offices of Mwulire Sector”, said“VN”. André Guichaoua, a French sociologist called by the prosecution as an expertwitness, testified in 2001 that Semanza begun preparations for the massacresof Tutsi long before 1994. According to him, Semanza began planning massacres as early as October 1990when the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF, a former rebel group now in power inKigali), first launched its attack, and then unleashed the killingsimmediately after the shooting down of the presidential plane on April 6,1994. The defenceDuring his opening statement in October 2000, Semanza's defence counsel, theCameroonianAmerican, Charles Taku, said that his client was a victim of“police machinations”. “He (Semanza) worked tirelessly in the service of hiscountrymen, never practiced sectarianism and could not stomach politicians'games”, said the lawyer. According to Taku, the genocide in Rwanda should be put squarely on the RPF's back and the “silent complicity of the international community”. “Semanzawas never part of a plan to kill Tutsis, neither did he encourage the rapeof Tutsi women. He did not have the necessary powers or the militaryauthority to exert the influence that the prosecutor claims”. He continuedthat in 1994, Semanza was no longer a mayor and did not have control overthe Interahamwe militia. To prove their point, the defence cited the testimony of one witness, “KM”,a woman living in exile since 1994. She said that she never saw the accuseddistributing arms or training militia as the prosecution alleges. “Semanza considered all Rwandans as brothers and fellow citizens who had thesame vision of developing their country”, the witness said. KM's testimony tallied with that of “SAM” who had appeared earlier. Thewitness had said that Semanza was never implicated in the massacres ofTutsis in Bicumbi or neighbouring areas. Semanza's alibiThe prosecution puts the dates of the alleged crimes between April 9 and 13,1994, but the accused insists that he left his home for Gitarama on thenight of April 8. Gitarama is where the interim government took refuge as itfled the advance of the RPF. Some defence witnesses confirmed this alibi. “I saw him at Gitarama marketon April 11”, “CYM” said in November 2001, adding that the accused couldhave arrived there days earlier. Some defence witnesses said that Semanza's house was attacked by RPFsoldiers shortly after the shooting down of the president's plane on April6, 1994 forcing the accused to flee to Gitarama. However, the prosecution maintains that “between April 9 and 13, 1994,Semanza worked hand in hand with the mayor of Gikoro, Paul Bisengimana, inorganising and carrying out massacres at Musha church where thousands hadtaken refuge away from the killings in their sectors”. The prosecution rejected the alibi of the accused, saying that he could goin and out of his commune as he wished. “You have no other alibi apart fromsaying that you left Bicumbi on April 9,1994”, pointed out the prosecution. This train of events was corroborated by professor Guichaoua, recalled as arebuttal witness by the prosecution. Initially he had said that the accusedparticipated in the interim government's meetings in Gitarama from April 11,1994. He however rectified his testimony saying that officials shuttledbetween Gitarama and Kigali. “One cannot run away from danger and then turn around and face it again”,protested the defence, pointing out that the prosecution had failed to punchholes through the witness's alibi. Highlighting the fact that there were many contradictions in prosecutionwitnesses' testimonies, (some sighting him at the same hour but at differentplaces), the defence said that it was a sign that the prosecution wasgroping in the dark and was unable to furnish precise facts to the allegedcrimes Semanza is accused of. The prosecution on its part urged the tribunal to overlook thecontradictions, arguing that they “did not overweigh the testimonies as awhole”. Semanza was not in office in 1994At the time of the alleged incidents, Semanza was out of office. He had beenremoved and replaced by Juvénal Rugambarara. The prosecution maintains thatSemanza “remained politically influential” in Bicumbi and Gikoro during thegenocide. Guichaoua labelled him “the great bougmestre”. Semanza accepts the label saying that it he earned it because of developmentprojects he had initiated during his time in office, but not because of thealleged influence he is said to have wielded after his removal from office. He argued that after he was replaced, he no longer had any power to giveorders. “I was neither a soldier nor a politician, I just took care of mybusinesses”, testified Semanza. He continued that he was on good terms with all ethnic groups in his communeand that he had taken in destitute Tutsi children under his roof. “I was thegodfather to over 15 Tutsi children”, he said, adding that some of them hadwanted to come and testify on his behalf but “feared” to do so. “Duringschool holidays, my home resembled a school,” he added. 59year old Semanza attended one year of postprimary education at l'Ecoletechnique officielle (ETO) in Kicukiro, near Kigali. He then worked as atelephone switchboard operator at Gahengeri commune, which later changed itsname to Bicumbi. He later served as the mayor of the commune for 20 yearsuntil 1993. In early 1994, he had been designated by the MRND as one of its members ofthe transitional national assembly that would have shared power with theRPF. Semanza was arrested in Cameroon in 1996 and transferred a year later to theUN detention facilities in Arusha. In 2000, the appeals chamber had found that Semanza's detention had beenmarred by irregularities and ruled that should he be proven innocent, heshould be awarded a financial settlement. It also ruled that should he befound guilty, he would benefit of a reduced sentence. Taku is assisted in Semanza's defence by Sadikou Alao from Benin while theprosecution was led by the CanadianNigerian, Chile EboeOsuji. Trial Chamber Three hearing the case is composed of Yakov Ostrovsky(Russia), assisted by George Lloyd Williams (SaintKitts and Nevis) andPavel Dolenc (Slovenia). Semanza is the eleventh person to be judged by the ICTR since it was createdin 1995. The tribunal will for the first time pass judgement on two cases inone dayl. KN/GA/CE/FH (SE'0514e)