The trial of Laurent Semanza, a former Bourgmestre of Bicumbi Commune opened today 16 October 2000 before Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, composed of Judges Yakov Ostrovsky, presiding, Lloyd George Williams and Pavel Dolenc.
Semanza (56), assisted by Counsels Charles Taku and Sadikou Ayo Alao (Benin), is facing 14 counts charging him with among others: Genocide, Direct and Public Incitement to Commit Genocide, Complicity to Commit Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Rape, and Serious Violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II. He pleaded not guilty to all the counts when he appeared before the Trial Chamber II on 24 June 1999.
Before the Prosecutor’s opening statement, an application to be admitted as Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) was made before the Chamber on behalf of the Kingdom of Belgium. According to Judge Williams, a decision to accept or reject this application will be made by the Trial Chamber in due course. Should the application be accepted, the Chamber was informed that any intervention by the representative of the Kingdom of Belgium would be made during the closing arguments.
In his opening statement, the Prosecutor told the court that in the course of the trial, prosecution will prove that the accused was an extremely powerful local politician who participated in organizing and executing the Ruhanga and Musha church massacres in Gikoro Commune, and other massacres in Bicumbi Commune, both of Kigali-Rural Prefecture. The Defence Counsel will make his statement after the Prosecutor has concluded the presentation of evidence as provided by the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal.
The accused was arrested on 27 March 1996 in Cameroon and transferred to Arusha on 19 November 1997.