Laurent Semanza, a businessman and former Bourgmestre of Bicumbi Commune in Rwanda, today pleaded "not guilty" to seven counts charging him with Genocide, Direct and Public Incitement to Commit Genocide, Complicity to Commit Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and Serious Violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II. The plea was entered during his initial appearance before Trial Chamber 2 composed of Judge William Sekule, presiding and Judges Yakov Ostrovsky and Tafazzal Khan. The trial date will be fixed later.
The counts charge him with being responsible for the extermination of civilians as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population on ethnic or racial grounds. He is also charged with causing violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in the course of a non-international armed conflict, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as mutilations or any form of corporal punishment.
The accused, who was born in 1944 in Musasa Commune, is alleged to have participated in organising and executing the Ruhanga and Musha church massacres in Gikoro Commune, and other massacres in Bicumbi Commune where thousands of persons had taken refuge to escape killings during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Mr. Semanza is also alleged to have made threatening remarks towards Tutsis and chaired meetings to incite, plan and organise the massacres of the Tutsi civilian population. The accused is defended by Counsel Gaétan Bourassa from Canada.
The accused was arrested on 27 March 1996 in Cameroon and transferred to Arusha on 19 November 1997.
Meanwhile, prosecution witnesses have continued to testify in the joint trial of Clement Kayishema and Obed Ruzindana before the same Trial Chamber.
Tomorrow, 17 February 1998, Gratien Kabiligi, a Brigadier-General and former Chief of Military Operations, and Aloys Ntabakuze, a Major and Commander of a battalion in the former Rwandan Army will make an initial appearance before Trial Chamber 2.