Semanza, Laurent

SEMANZA laurentLaurent Semanza was Bourgmestre (Mayor) of Bicumbi commune for more than twenty years, and at the time of the genocide in Rwanda, was a member of the Central Committee of the MRND. Semanza was nominated as the Mouvement Républicain National pour le Développement et la Démocratie (MRND) representative to the National Assembly of the broad-based transitional government, which was to be established pursuant to the Arusha Accords to facilitate peaceful governance in Rwanda. Semanza also retained de jure and de facto control over the Interahamwe, police and Rwandan Armed Forces.

Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing into 1994, Semanza incited and organized the killing of Tutsi civilians across various communes in Rwanda. He was accused of participating in various attacks on churches where Tutsis had sought refuge, personally cutting off the arm of a victim who later died, inciting the murder and rape of Tutsi women, as well as distributing weapons and training militias. According to an Amended Indictment of 12 October 1999, Semanza was charged with 14 counts, including genocide and eight counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, persecution, rape and torture). Semanza was arrested in Cameroon in 1996 and made his first appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in February 1998.

After eighty-days of trial proceedings, Laurent Semanza was convicted on 15 May 2003 of complicity to genocide, aiding and abetting extermination and crimes against humanity (murder, rape and torture), but acquitted of the remaining counts. He was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment (reduced to 24 years and 6 months due to violations of his rights prior to his transfer to the custody of the Tribunal). After both Semanza and the Prosecutor appealed the sentence, the Appeals Court added convictions for genocide and war crimes on 20 May 2005, consequently increasing his sentence to 35 years’ imprisonment.

Research/ miscellaneous (Research Document)
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