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ICTR Appeals Chamber Increases Semanza Sentence From 25 to 35 Years in Prison

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, today, affirmed the conviction of Laurent Semanza on genocide charges and increased his sentence by 10 years for ordering the murder, torture and rape of Tutsi civilians at a church during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Semanza entered an appeal on 22 grounds against his conviction by Trial Chamber III on 15 May 2003 for complicity to commit genocide, extermination, torture and murder as crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber dismissed Semanza’s argument that he should be acquitted of all charges because the Trial Chamber was biased against him.

Instead, the Appeals Chamber accepted the Prosecutor’s argument and convicted Semanza of ordering, rather than aiding and abetting, the massacre of Tutsis at Musha church. Because Semanza had more serious culpability for the crimes at the church, the Appeals Chamber increased from 15 to 25 years, his sentence for conviction on Counts 7 and 13 of the indictment.

The Appeals Chamber also reversed the Trial Chamber’s acquittal on the charges of serious violations of Common Article 3 and Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions.

Under today’s appeals judgment, Semanza will serve 35 years in prison with credit for time already spent in custody. The Trial Chamber had sentenced Semanza to 25 years’ imprisonment with a reduction of 6 months because of violations of his rights that occurred while in detention prior to his transfer to the ICTR.

Laurent Semanza was born in 1944 in Musasa commune, Kigali rural prefecture. Prior to becoming President of the greater Kigali branch of the MRND political party in 1993, he served as Bourgmestre of Bicumbi commune.

The appeal was before Judges Theodor Meron (United States of America), Presiding, Mohamed Shahabuddeen (Guyana), Mehmet Gϋney (Turkey), Fausto Pocar (Italy) and Inés Mónica Weinberg de Roca (Argentina).

The Appeals Chamber also sat for two days from Wednesday 18 May 2005 to hear the merits in the appeal case of Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, former Minister of Culture and Education, during which two defence witnesses and two for the prosecution testified.

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