Friends of the Congo (Washington, DC)

3 June 2010

Rwanda: Peter Erlinder's Family and their Legal Team Seek Release of Peter Erlinder

press release

Peter Erlinder's Family and their legal team calls on the U.S. State Department and the United Nations to prevail upon Rwanda to release Peter Erlinder immediately. They are concerned about his health and the conditions of his detention.

Professor Erlinder, 62, is a faculty member at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States and president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association. He was arrested by the government of Rwanda under the leadership of president Paul Kagame on May 27 in Rwanda in the course of his representation of Rwanda’s opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire.

Erlinder arrived in Kigali on May 23 to take up the legal representation of Victoire Ingabire, a Hutu expatriate who had spent the past 16 years in the Netherlands, but who immediately upon her return to Rwanda in January was regarded as the leading opposition figure, though her United Democratic Forces hadn't been able to register as an official party. The Kagame regime arrested her on April 21, and charged her with "association with a terrorist group; propagating genocide ideology; negationism and ethnic divisionism." As 2010 is an election year in Rwanda (now scheduled for August 9), the arrest of Ingabire may help Kagame once again avoid any meaningful electoral contest.

Prior to entering Rwanda, Erlinder called on the Rwandan government, the State Department, the U.S. Embassy, and UN agencies in Rwanda to guarantee his safety and that of his client.

Now Peter Erlinder's family calls upon the U.S. State Deparment, Secretary of State and the United Nations to secure the release of Peter Erlinder and his safe journey back to the United States.

Peter Erlinder discovered thousands of original U.N. and U.S. document at the United Nations office in New York that raised legitimate questions about Rwanda's official story about the 1994 genocide. See http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi- bin/library.

From reading and sorting the mountain of documents he learned that the so-called “1994 genocide” happened during the last three months of a four-year civil war in Rwanda. During the war, “Hutu” Government repeatedly requested ceasefire because they lacked the military capacity to put down the civilian massacre but “Tutsi rebels led by Kagame” refused it.

Peter Erlinder wrote, “There is no doubt that extreme violence swept Rwanda.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda from 1990 to 1993, Robert Flaten who testified on the UN-ICTR responding to Erlinder’s request, clearly stated “He had said throughout this period … that there were atrocities committed on both sides and that the invading army [led by Kagame] also massacred many people and that's a truth that needs to be told.” (MPR news Q, May 28, 2010)

"Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of his clients. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for representing defendants it dislikes.

"A government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted. The entire National Lawyers Guild is honored by Erlinder's membership, his leadership as past president and his courageous advocacy," said David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild.

"The offense Peter is charged with is not based on facts, but on the suppression of free speech in his representation of clients, which undermines the rule of law. His family knows he stands with people who are oppressed by those in power and he encourages people to stand up for justice." Masako Usui, wife of Peter Erlinder.

"The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) is outraged at the arrest of Peter Erlinder in Rwanda. This arrest violates the rights and privileges of lawyers in discharging their professional responsibilities, constitutes a willful obstruction of the judicial process and is in gross violation of the rights of defense of an accused person." Jeanne Mirer, President, International Association of Democratic Lawyers

Peter is a committed advocate who even last week assisted me in representing a Somalian client facing extradition from the Netherlands to the United States. I know him as dedicated lawyer who argues forcefully but ethically for the protection of his clients interests. His arrest comes as a shock and is an important reminder of the vulnerability of lawyers positions in some countries. Bart Stapert, Amsterdam Lawyer

For more information about Peter's position and political views, please see Peter Erlinder Jailed by One of the Major Genocidaires of Our Era the Monthly Review article by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/hp290510. html

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