UN Tribunal Rejects Laurent Semanza’s Early Release

Laurent Semanza  (Photo credit should read STELLA VUZO/AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) has rejected an appeal case of a Rwandan genocide, Semanza-Laurent who had requested the court to consider his provisional release.

Semanza, former bourgmestre of Commune Bicumbi, now Rwamagana district is accused of committing genocide against Tutsi in 1994 with 14 counts and was sentenced in Benin to 34 years and six months imprisonment affirmed on appeal on 20 May 2005.

Semanza was accused of organizing, directing, and personally participating in attacks, which included killings, serious bodily or mental harm, and sexual violence at four locations in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes during the month of April 1994.

The suspect, now 76 years is currently serving his sentence in Benin and due to Coronavirus in the country, he had in March 2020 submitted an appeal to be released on grounds that his life was in danger due to his age and life in prison.

After assessing the request, IRMCT Court President, Judge Camel Agius stated this weekend that there was no strong ground to grant the request based on the gravity crimes that the suspect was convicted of.

“The convict (Semanza) cannot be released until he completes his sentence and in my opinion his appeal is not convincing to take this decision, since there is not enough proof to base on his claims,” Agius said.

The judge said that in Semanza’s appeal, he had also not shown a tendency to regret committing the crimes he was sentenced for and basing on the request of the Rwandan government, he had to serve a full sentence as it is.

With this standing decision of which Judge Agius requested the court clerk to inform the government of Rwanda of, it means that Semanza, who has already served more than 22 years, will have to remain in jail.

The decision is contrary to those taken during the reign of Judge Theodor Meron who released indicted and arrested genocide suspect at the IRMCT without completing almost two-thirds of their sentences.

Out of a total of 96 Rwandan individuals indicted by the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)-now IRMCT, 61 have been convicted, 31 of whom are currently serving sentences while 22 of whom have completed their sentences. Another eight convicts died while serving their sentences.

Another 14 people were acquitted. The court also transferred the cases of 10 individuals to national jurisdictions.




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