Laurent Semanza v. The Prosecutor
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||International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Appeals Chamber), Tanzania
||20 May 2005
- Laurent Semanza
- The Prosecutor
||Crimes against humanity, Genocide, War crimes
||crimes against humanity, extermination, genocide, Murder, rape, Serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II, torture
Prior to becoming President of the greater Kigali branch of the Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour la Démocratie er le Développement (MRND) political party in 1993, the Accused, Laurent Semanza, served as Bourgmestre (mayor) of Bicumbi commune. On 15 May 2003, Trial Chamber III of the ICTR found him guilty of complicity in genocide, extermination, torture and murder as crimes against humanity. Semanza submitted 22 grounds of appeal against his convictions. The Appeals Chamber dismissed his 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 for ordering, rather than aiding and abetting, the massacre of Tutsis at Musha church. Because the Accused had more serious culpability for the crimes at the church, the Appeals Chamber increased his sentence from 15 to 25 years on Counts 7 and 13 of the indictment. More specifically, the Chamber affirmed the conviction for genocide charges and increased his sentence by 10 years for ordering the murder, torture and rape of Tutsi civilians at the church. 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. Semanza was sentenced to a total of 35 years imprisonment.
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On 15 May 2003, Trial Chamber III convicted the Accused of one count of complicity in genocide (Count 3), one count of aiding and abetting extermination as a crime against humanity (Count 5), one count of rape as a crime against humanity (Count 10), one count of torture as a crime against humanity (Count 11), and two counts of murder as a crime against humanity (Counts 12 and 14). The Accused was sentenced to twenty- four years and six months’ imprisonment with credit being given for time already served.
Semanza raised 22 grounds of appeal. His arguments related principally to an apprehension of bias of the Trial Chamber, shortcomings in the Indictment and amendments to the Indictment, errors with respect to his alibi, problems in the taking of judicial notice by the Trial Chamber, evidentiary objections, expert testimony, cumulative charging and convictions, and flaws in his sentence.
The Prosecution advanced three grounds of appeal. It submitted that the Accused should be held liable for ordering the commission of crimes at Musha church and for war crimes, and it raised objections to the Accused’s sentence.
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Legally relevant facts
Under grounds 1, 5, 6, 8 and 21 of his appeal, the Accused submitted that the Trial Chamber had exhibited bias against him throughout the trial (para. 12).
Under ground 2, he contended that the indictment and initial appearance had been flawed in several respects (para. 59).
Under ground 3, the Accused argued that the modifications made by the Judges at the judgment stage had profoundly altered the nature of the charges against him (para. 89).
Under ground 4, he challenged the Trial Chamber’s treatment of his alibi and of the relevant evidence (para. 94).
Under grounds 9 and 17, he challenged the facts of which the Trial Chamber took judicial notice (para. 186).
Under grounds 10, 11 and 15, he maintained that the Trial Chamber had unreasonably ignored or minimised contradictions in the evidence related to his presence at Mush church (para. 202).
Under grounds 12, 14 and 16, he challenged the evidence supporting his convictions (para. 225).
Semanza’s thirteenth ground of appeal concerned the Trial Chamber’s findings on the rape of Victim A, the murder of Victim B, the torture and murder of Victim C (para. 280).
Under ground 15, he submitted that the Trial Chamber had erred in its findings regarding the murder of victims D, E, F, G, H and J (para. 291).
Under ground 19, he advanced several arguments related to the expert evidence (para. 299).
Under grounds 20 and 22 respectively, he contended that he had been improperly charged on cumulative grounds and challenged his sentence (paras. 307, 312).
The Prosecution’s grounds of appeal concerned the Accused’s liability for ordering crimes at Musha church, his acquittal of war crimes and his sentence (para. 348).
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Core legal questions
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- Whether the Trial Chamber had erred in convicting the Accused for complicity in genocide with respect to the events at Mwulire hill and Musha church.
- Whether the Trial Chamber had correctly found the Accused guilty of aiding and abetting extermination as a crime against humanity regarding the events at Mwulire hill and the events at Musha church.
- Whether the Trial Chamber had erred in acquitting Semanza of war crimes for ordering the murders at Musha church, aiding and abetting the murders at Mwulire hill, for instigating the rape and torture of Victim A and the murder of Victim B, and for committing torture and intentional murder of Rusanganwa.
- Whether the Trial Chamber had erred in convicting the Accused for rape, torture and murder as crimes against humanity.
- Whether the other grounds of appeal advanced by the Accused and the Prosecution should be granted.
- What the effect on the sentence would be, in case any of the grounds of appeal were accepted.
- Whether the Appeals Chamber was competent to enter new or more serious convictions on appeal.
Specific legal rules and provisions
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- Articles 2, 3. 4, 6(1),(3), 17, 18, 19(1), 20(1),(2),(3),(4)(a),(e), 21, 22(2), 23 and 24 of the ICTR Statute.
- Rules 14, 40bis, 46, 47(B),(C), 50(B), 52, 53, 54, 66(A)(1), 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 78, 89(A),(B),(C),(D), 90(G), 93, 94(A),(B), 101, 103(B), 107, 115, 118 and 119 of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence.
- Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II thereto.
- Article 14(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Court's holding and analysis
The Appeals Chamber affirmed the conviction for complicity in genocide with respect to the events at Mwulire hill but reversed the conviction for complicity in genocide with respect to the events at Musha church (Disposition, p. 129).
The Chamber further reversed the acquittal for genocide and entered, with Judge Pocar dissenting, a conviction for genocide with respect to the events at Musha church (Disposition, p. 129).
The Appeals Chamber affirmed the conviction for aiding and abetting extermination as a crime against humanity regarding the events at Mwulire hill but reversed the conviction for aiding and abetting extermination with respect to the events at Musha church. However, the Chamber, with Judge Pocar dissenting, entered a conviction for ordering extermination regarding the events at Musha church (Disposition, p. 129-130).
The Chamber also, reversed the acquittals for war crimes and entered, with Judge Pocar dissenting, convictions for serious violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and of the Additional Protocol II for ordering the murders at Musha church, aiding and abetting the murders at Mwulire hill, for instigating the rape and torture of Victim A and the murder of Victim B, and for committing torture and intentional murder of Rusanganwa (Disposition, p. 130).
The Chamber affirmed the convictions for rape, torture and murder as crimes against humanity and dismissed the appeals in all other respects (Disposition, p. 130).
The Chamber quashed the sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment handed down by the Trial Chamber and entered, with Judge Pocar dissenting, a sentence of 35 years’ imprisonment, subject to credit being given for the period already spent in detention, and subject to a further six-month reduction as ordered by the Trial Chamber for violations of fundamental pre-trial rights (Disposition, p. 130).
In their separate opinion, Judges Shahabuddeen and Güney considered that the doctrine that the Appeals Chamber would not interfere in the Trial Chamber’s sentencing discretion unless there is a discernible error by the Trial Chamber does not inhibit the Appeals Chamber from passing sentences for a new conviction. They further noted that the Appeals Chamber has competence under Article 24(2) of the Statute to substitute a conviction for an acquittal (paras. 4, 6).
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Pocar expressed the view that the Appeals Chamber does not have the competence to remedy the Trial Chamber’s errors by subsequently entering new or more serious convictions on appeal (para. 1).
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- G. Boas et al., International Criminal Law Practitioner Library, Volume I, Forms of Responsibility in International Criminal Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 411 et seq;
- D. Re, ‘Appeal’ in Luc Reydams et al., International Prosecutors, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. See esp. pp. 847 et seq.;
- A. Heindel, ‘Laurent Semanza v. Prosecutor Case No. ICTR-97-20-A’, Human Rights Brief, 2006, Vol. 13(2), No. 10;
- A. Weernink, ‘The Prosecutor v. Laurent Semanza, Case No. ICTR-97-20, Judgment, Appeals Chamber (20 May 2005)', Chinese Journal of International Law, 2007, Vol. 6(1), pp. 115-125.
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- Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field (GC I), 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 35, entered into force 21 October 1950.
- Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea (GC II), 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 81, entered into force 21 October 1950.
- Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GC III), 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 135, entered into force 21 October 1950.
- Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (GC IV), 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 287, entered into force 21 October 1950.
- Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (AP II), 1125 UNTS 609, 8 June 1977, entered into force 7 December 1979.
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 999 UNTS 171, 16 December 1966.
- Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR Statute), UN Doc S/RES/955, UN Security Council, 1994.
- Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR RPE), UN Doc ITR/3/Rev. 6, adopted on 29 June 1995, as amended on 8 June 1998.
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