Posts from — May 2010
by Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Friends and family members of St. Paul law professor Peter Erlinder say he was taken to a hospital in Rwanda Monday after showing signs of illness following a police interrogation.
The medical attention came on Erlinder’s fourth day of detention in a Rwandan jail. Last Friday, authorities locked up the well-known activist lawyer for allegedly spreading what are considered illegal views on the African country’s genocide.
It’s still unclear whether Erlinder will return to jail and face charges.
A fellow American lawyer who is in Rwanda fighting for Erlinder’s release said the professor’s jail stay appears to be aggravating his health conditions, including high blood pressure. Kurt Kerns said two defense attorneys from Kenya demanded the medical intervention on Erlinder’s behalf.
“They’re like, ‘We’re done with this interrogation. He doesn’t look good. His blood pressure is high. We want him taken to a local hospital.’ The local authorities complied,” Kerns said.
Kerns said Erlinder will probably return to jail if and when a doctor approves. He said before Erlinder was whisked away to the hospital, Rwandan police asked Erlinder seven questions. While Kerns said he can’t disclose the nature of the inquiry, he called the case against Erlinder, in his words, “pathetic.”
“They did give us a glimpse as to what their accusations are, but we walked out with a pretty optimistic view of how ridiculously weak the charges are,” Kerns said.
Rwandan authorities kicked Kerns out of the police interrogation because they said Kerns didn’t have the proper credentials to represent Erlinder.
Erlinder teaches at St. Paul’s William Mitchell College of Law and has been a pointed critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Erlinder is in Rwanda to defend a presidential challenger against charges of promoting genocidal ideology.
Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 killed more than 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The massacres ended when mostly Tutsi rebels led by Kagame defeated the Hutus.
Erlinder’s wife, Masako Usui said her husband never denied that the massacre took place. But she said he has taken issue with the government’s explanation as to how it came about, and that he thinks there was plenty of blame to go around. Now, some Rwandans have called her husband a “conspiracy terrorist.”
“It says they don’t care about human rights,” Usui said. “They don’t care about a bill of rights. So, I’m getting more and more angry.”
Usui said Erlinder has high cholesterol and is running out of medication. Some of Erlinder’s allies in Rwanda have even warned her that the jailers may try to poison his food.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Monday morning that there’s no indication Erlinder was jailed for any reason other than representing his client. She said she has expressed her concerns to the U.S. State Department.
“I know their focus is on his fair treatment and that the process moves fairly and quickly, so we’re giving every [piece of] information to the highest levels of the embassy,” Klobuchar said. “Our hope is that there will be some kind of hearing either today, tomorrow, or Wednesday, and hopefully he can be at least released out of jail.”
But Klobuchar said she doesn’t know whether Erlinder will be able to come home anytime soon, as he works his way through Rwanda’s struggling judicial system.
May 31, 2010 No Comments
“I want my lawyer. I want to call my embassy, and I want these damn cuffs of me.” This is the request made by Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza’s American lawyer, Prof. Peter Erlinder to Rwandan authorities.
In the meantime, the official position of Rwanda Governement as stated by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mushikiwabo is clear:
– “Mr. Erlinder is a conspiracy theorist”
– Mr. Erlinder and Victoire Ingabire are “reckless publicity seekers and genocide deniers” whose “provocative actions and statements” have
“the potential to undercut the legitimacy of Rwanda’s electoral process.”
– “Entering Rwanda was a brazen act of provocation”
– “Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.”
May 31, 2010 1 Comment
Kigali – US Attorney, C. Peter Erlinder, claiming to be a lawyer representing Victoire Ingabire, entered Rwanda on 27 May 2010, and was arrested by authorities under the country’s genocide ideology laws the following day, on 28 May. Ingabire stands accused of having ties to FDLR, a UN-listed terrorist group that advocates the resumption of the Rwandan genocide that was brought to an end in 1994.
According to Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, “Mr. Erlinder’s unapologetic violation of these laws is self-evident.
He has continually engaged in conspiracy theories and denial surrounding the circumstances of the genocide.
He has promulgated this dangerous and distorted fiction over many years.
Entering Rwanda was a brazen act of provocation, since Erlinder must clearly understand he is in breach of the laws of our country.”
“Mr. Erlinder and Ms. Ingabire claim their intention is to support her opposition candidacy for President,” said Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Government Spokesperson. “However, Ms. Ingabire is not registered as a candidate.
Moreover, the provocative actions and statements of she and Mr. Erlinder seem more a naked public relations ploy than a serious effort to engage in an election or a debate on democracy.
This would be upsetting in and of itself, but is particularly disturbing because it has the potential to undercut the legitimacy of Rwanda’s electoral process.”
Rwanda experienced a bloody genocide in the 1990s. Part of the country’s enormously successful recovery has included ensuring that the kinds of propaganda and reckless innuendo that helped to cause the genocide can never be repeated.
Like its counterparts in Europe, who adopted legal principles to ensure no repeat of the holocaust, Rwanda has adopted similar laws.
“Unfortunately, reckless publicity seekers and genocide deniers are using the upcoming election process to further their agendas with little attention to the great harm they are causing.” continued Ms. Mushikiwabo.
“Our goal is not to tamp down opposing viewpoints and freedom of speech. It is to protect the safety, security and integrity of Rwanda’s democratic electoral process.
Publicity seekers and genocide deniers engaged in publicity stunts do nothing to promote Rwandan stability but instead seek to destabilize the country for personal gain.
We believe the actions of Mr. Erlinder could have precisely that effect.
Rather than letting the world witness the progress of Rwanda, they are instead treated to a smokescreen that is not remotely rooted in the reality of Rwanda and the daily lives of its citizens.”
“Mr. Erlinder’s claims that he is here to represent Victoire Ingabire do not stand up to scrutiny”, said Ms. Mushikiwabo.
“He is not registered to practice law in Rwanda, and has made no attempts to do so. It is clear to any observer that he is not here to practice law at all, but to promote himself and his dangerous causes.
In our opinion, Mr. Erlinder is a conspiracy theorist who seeks to willfully promote his extremist views on Rwandan soil — and we will not permit this.
We understand that human rights activists schooled in the US Bill of Rights may find this objectionable. But for Rwandans — schooled in the tragedy of the 1994 genocide and who long for peace – Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.”
Republic of Rwanda
Louise Mushikiwabo, +250 78830 5218
Office of the Government Spokesperson
May 31, 2010 1 Comment
Rwandans deny access to jailed St. Paul attorney
A member of a lawyers’ group calling for his release said Peter Erlinder may get a court date today.
The attorneys who were allowed to visit with jailed St. Paul attorney Peter Erlinder on Saturday in Rwanda were denied access to him Sunday, his daughter said.
Calling it a troubling development, Sarah Erlinder, an Arizona attorney, said the lawyers were barred from seeing her father a day after they had been granted a visit. Apparently, a Rwandan jail official “yelled” at jail employees who granted attorneys access on Saturday.
It seems that official could not be reached Saturday, Sarah Erlinder said, and could not block the visit. However, she said, the jail official was reachable Sunday — and not very happy.
Sarah Erlinder said the attorneys who visited her father — one American and one Rwandan — reported that he appeared to be in good health and in good spirits. That was a relief, she said, “because then we could concentrate on the larger issue of getting him out.”
It is not clear if access to her father will continue to be blocked, she said.
Alison Turner, a board member of the International Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, said Sunday that Erlinder may get his first hearing on Monday.
Erlinder, 62, is in Rwanda to help defend presidential hopeful Victoire Ingabire against charges of promoting genocidal ideology. He was arrested by the Rwandan police Friday. Ingabire is running against Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the Aug 9 elections. More than 500,000 people died during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
JAMES WALSH – startribune.com
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May 31, 2010 No Comments
by Kambale Musavuli.
Friends of the Congo urges you to break the silence and request the release of Ingabire’s lawyer Peter Erlinder.
Call script and list of people to call to get Professor Erlinder released from Kigali jail
This is a call script to use – or compose your own – when calling in support of Professor Erlinder’s release from jail in Kigali:
My name is __________________.
I am calling as a concerned [citizen/student/constituent] to inform you that an American lawyer, Professor Peter Erlinder, was arrested in Rwanda while there to defend a pro-democracy opposition leader currently on trial. In recent months, opposition party candidates have been intimidated, physically attacked and arrested. Some were denied proper due process, and Professor Peter Erlinder was there to aid Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in this regard.
I am calling therefore to ask that you take the necessary steps to secure his immediate release and demand that Rwanda allow him to continue his human rights work. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reported on Rwanda’s ongoing gross disregard for human rights. Obstructing free and fair trials for the accused as in this case is a prime example such violations.
The arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder is a tragic occurrence in the ongoing struggle for justice, human rights and democracy in Rwanda. Therefore I am asking that you do all you can to help restore some semblance of justice and human rights by asking for the release of Professor Peter Erlinder, which will allow him to continue his human rights work.
Please contact these decision makers
State Department Bureau of African Affairs, (202) 647-4440, fax (202) 647-6301
Johnny Carson, Africa Foreign Relations Committee, (202) 647-2530, fax (202) 647-0838
Stephen J. Rapp, war crimes ambassador, (202) 647-6051, fax (202) 736-4495
State Department’s Rwandan Desk Officer Marlaina Casey, (202) 647-3138
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice – Accredited Journalists Line (212) 415-4050, Opinion and Comment Line (212) 415-4062, fax (212) 415-4053
Rwanda Mission to the U.N. in USA (212) 679-9010 or (212) 679-9023, fax (212) 679-9133
Rwanda Embassy, (202) 232-2882
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, New York, NY 10017 USA, (212) 963-5012, fax (212) 963-7055, email@example.com
On Capitol Hill
Senator Al Franken, (202) 224-5641
Senator Amy Klobuchar, (202) 224-3244
Peter Erlinder’s Congressional Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota 5th, (202) 224-4755 or email his aide, Zahir Jan Mohamed, firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
- Donald Payne, Chair, (202) 225-3436
- Chris Smith, Ranking Member, (202)-225-3765
- Ed Royce (202) 225-4111
Michele Bachmann, Minnesota 6th, (202) 225-2331
John Kline, Minnesota 2nd, (202) 225-2271
McCollum, Betty, Minnesota 4th, (202) 225-6631
James L. Oberstar, Minnesota 8th, (202) 225-6211
Erik Paulsen, Minnesota 3rd, (202) 225-2871
Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota 7th, (202) 225-2165
Timothy J. Walz, Minnesota 1st, (202) 225-2472
U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Public Affairs Section, 2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie (Kacyiru District), P.O. Box 28, Kigali, Rwanda, (250) 596-400, Ext. 2553, fax; (250) 596-771 or 596-591, KigaliEmbassy@state.gov
Human rights organizations
For anyone not familiar with Prof Erlinder, he is amongst the three lawyers taking Kagame to court here for the crimes he has committed in the region as well as the theft of Congo’s minerals.
For an official copy of the case – Kagame is being sued on eight counts; Count 6 is for looting Congo’s minerals – visit http://www.kambale.com/pdf/kagame_lawsuit_april29th_2010.pdf.
May 29, 2010 No Comments
Here is the open letter addressed in April 2006 by Peter Erlinder, Lead Counsel before the ICTR (Arusha, Tanzania), to Canadian PM Harper re State Visit of Rwandan President Kagame.
This open letter is referred to by the Rwandan authorities to label Peter Erlinder as a “self-proclaimed genocide denier” (see article American Lawyer Peter Erlinder not accredited to defend Ingabire in Rwandan courts).
Peter Erlinder was arrested in Kigali this Friday 28th May by Rwandan Police for genocide denial.
Hon. Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
Government of Canada
April 6, 2006
Re: OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER HARPER:
Regarding State Visit of Current President of Rwanda
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
I am writing from the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, TZ on this, the 12th Anniversary of the assassination of President Habyarimana of Rwanda, which preceded the terrible massacres that occurred after the April 6 assassination. I have learned that your Government has agreed to host a state visit by the current President of Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame. To prevent future embarrassment to you and your Government, and to comply with the ethical principles to which I am bound as an Officer of the Court of the ICTR, I am obligated to bring recent developments at the ICTR to your attention.
By way of background, please note that the March/April 2004 issue of the UK Economist reported on the 10th Anniversary of the horrific events in Rwanda by noting that the Kagame Regime is the most repressive military dictatorship in Africa. At that time, the identity of those who carried out the “assassination by missile” of former President Habyarimana by shooting down the presidential plane on April 6, 1994 (which all agree touched off the massive civilian killings in April-July 1994) was not known.
However, this circumstance changed during the past month at the ICTR which saw multiple witnesses, including: an “Africanist” Belgian Catholic Priest and Historian, who lived in Rwanda for 18 years; former RPF/RPA officers who were either present when the missiles were fired, or present at RPF/RPA Headquarters during 1993-94; as well as, numerous never-before-public UN documents which confirm the following:
1. The RPF/Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) had a 3-4/1 military- force advantage, which was known to then-General Kagame at least as of February 1993 when the RPF/RPA broke the Arusha ceasefire and nearly captured the capital, that the RPF/RPA had the military power to take power in Rwanda at will. It was the 1,000,000-plus displaced, brutalized refugees became an ungovernable force that later engaged in civilian-civilian massacres.
2. Between February 1993 and April 1994, while pretending to negotiate a power-sharing agreement set out in the Arusha Accords, Gen. Kagame openly declared to RPA troops that they should prepare for war and he also threatened war repeatedly when speaking with UN and international delegations in early 1994, as reflected in contemporary UN documents.
3. During this same period, hundreds of tons of weaponry and ammunition were illegally brought into Rwanda in preparation for the final assault to seize power and stored in numerous “weapons caches” around the country.
4. By March 1994, UN documents show that the Rwandan Government Forces (RGF) had been decimated by the four-year war of invasion by elements of the Ugandan military, supported by the Ugandan government and military, and lacked the military capacity to fight an invading army AND use military force to stop civilian massacres by other civilians.
5. The former U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda, Hon. Robert Flaten, testified in June 2005 that he personally warned Gen. Kagame and Pres. Habyarimana that if either resumed war by breaking the Arusha Accords cease fire, they would be responsible for thousands of civilian casualties from retaliatory killings that U.S. State Department documents predicted should the war resume…similar to killings that swept Burundi/Rwanda in 1988.
6. On March 9-10, 2006 and again on April 3-6, 2006 the President of the ICTR heard testimony, with supporting U.N. and other documents, that Gen. Kagame ordered the assassination of President Habyarimana to de-stabilize his enemy, and that he ordered the final assault within minutes after learning of the successful missile attack….long BEFORE any retaliatory, civilian killings had occurred anywhere in Rwanda.
7. The evidence, confirmed in original UN documents, also shows that, between April 6, 1994 and the RPF military victory in mid-July 1994, the Rwandan Government and the RGF repeatedly asked for an unconditional cease-fire to permit its few, battle-hardened troops to use force to stop the massacres. When the RGF stated that it lacked the means to stop the massacres without a ceasefire, UN documents confirmed that this was known to be true by Gen. Dallaire and Gen. Kagame in March 1994, before the assassination of President Habyarimana.
8. Canadian General Dallaire testified in January 2004 that: (a) there were only about 5,000 dependable RGF troops; (b) the first obligation of all armies, including the Canadian Army and the RGF, is to defend the “security of the homeland;” (c) and, it was militarily impossible for the RGF/Gendarmes to fight a war of invasion AND stop long-predicted, retaliatory, civilian-civilian massacres.
9. Between April 1994 and July 1994, the RPF was the only military force in Rwanda which was militarily capable of stopping the massacres, with or without a cease-fire, however, on numerous occasions Gen. Kagame specifically ordered field officers NOT to use troops “to save civilians while RPF soldiers are dying” and, as Gen. Dallaire testified under oath, Gen. Kagame told him that civilian killings as “collateral damage” for his war plan.
10. According to sworn ICTR testimony, Gen. Kagame specifically ordered the creation of particular units responsible for “cleansing” civilians from areas controlled by the RPF and was personally present as tens of thousands of civilians were lured to Byumba Stadium in late April 1994 and massacred by RPF troops under his command, among other atrocities.
11. Much of this information can be found in: The Secret History of Rwanda by former RPF Officer Abdul Joshua Ruzibiza, recently published in Paris; the Report of Serge Desouter to the ICTR, an historian of the Belgian “White Fathers” century-old mission in Rwanda; the public and closed transcripts at the ICTR; and, original UN documents introduced as exhibits in the Military 1 case (Bagasora et al) at the ICTR.
12. In July 2003, then-ICTR Prosecutor Carla del Ponte announced that she had discovered enough evidence to prosecute BOTH sides in the Rwandan War. However, shortly thereafter, Pres. Kagame called for her resignation, as did Colin Powell and Kofi Annan. She was replaced two months later and, to this date, not ONE person associated with Gen. Kagame’s successful seizure of power has been called to account at the ICTR (unlike the ICTY in which leaders associated with all major actors have been indicted).
13. In light of the evidence now in the public record of the Tribunal, a formal Motion is being prepared which requests the President of the Tribunal, and the Office of the Prosecutor, to draft the Indictment of Paul Kagame for Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, various War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and Conspiracy to commit such crimes, all committed by him, and the troops he commanded in Rwanda in 1994.
14. Motions to dismiss charges presently pending against former RGF Officers for actions properly attributed to the victors of the 1994 RPF War of Accession to Power.
Since the ICTR has not been well-covered in the western media, I have no doubt that you and your advisors have not been made aware of the above before issuing the invitation to the current Rwandan President. However, since this information is already in the public record, and more is being accumulated daily, I could not permit an accused war-criminal, on the same order as the recently arrested former-president Charles Taylor, to receive the endorsement of the Canadian Government, without putting the record straight….and putting the matter before your Government for evaluation.
I would be pleased direct your staff to relevant materials in the public record at the ICTR, if that would be convenient to the Canadian Government.
Prof. Peter Erlinder, ICTR Lead Defence Counsel
Past-President, National Lawyers Guild, N.Y.C. USA
Wm. Mitchell College of Law
875 Summit Av.
St. Paul, MN 55105
U.N. No. (212) 963-2850 (ext. 5073)
May 29, 2010 1 Comment
On the day the Rwandan authorities have arrested american lawyer Professor Peter Erlinder who was in Kigali to assist opposition leader Victoire Ingabire in her judicial case,
Guardian’s journalist Sarah Boseley writes about the way Kagame sees democracy.
Here is what she writes in her article “Rwanda: Kagame stands firm. Rights? Yes, but put food on the table first”.
Sixteen years on from the genocide, Rwanda is thriving and prosperous, beloved of donor nations but its president is accused of stifling dissent
Paul Kagame sits at the head of a vast polished oval table in his lush presidential compound in Kigali, an apparently fragile figure, rake-thin, his dark suit hanging loose. The wire-framed glasses above jutting cheekbones give him an austerely academic look.
Rwanda’s president is a thoughtful man, who listens attentively and speaks slowly with an occasional almost self-deprecatory half-laugh, but the steel in the former general who brought genocide to an end 16 years ago is evident in his words.
“Democracy is good music but you need somebody with ears to listen to that music,” he says, leaning across the table. “It doesn’t matter how much you talk about democracy or human rights. Tell me about a family who spend the whole night looking at each other and wondering whether they will have something to eat. Are they thinking about anything else? They are just not listening.”
We can all agree on the substance of democracy, he says, but the form it takes will be different even between European countries, the US and Japan.
“Your model of democracy, why should it be suitable for me?” he says.
Kagame has enjoyed the admiration of the west for establishing a peaceful, orderly and increasingly prosperous-looking Rwanda since the genocide of 1994. The country is now the darling of donor nations, with Kigali a striking contrast to the noisy, litter-strewn capitals of neighbouring African states.
Kagame’s model of development, he unhesitatingly says, is South Korea or Singapore. Plastic bags are banned. Dilapidated houses bear a large red cross, a warning that they must be renovated or face demolition within six months. But to Kagame’s irritation, outsiders have begun to question the tight control he exercises over this model African state. In recent months, two independent newspapers have been closed, and two generals have been arrested. Most controversially, Victoire Ingabire, leader of the Hutu opposition United Democratic Forces Party (FDU), has been placed under house arrest following her return from the Netherlands.
Kagame, leader of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front, is being accused of suppressing dissent and subverting the democratic process ahead of the presidential elections in August. But he argues that criticism from outside is unfair and ill-informed.
“Why should the outside world judge Rwanda, judge Kagame, based on the views of two or three people or papers and not based on the views of Rwandans? If you ask people how they feel about government and the leadership, they give an entirely different view from what outsiders think,” he says.
Kagame’s view is that the media high council had to act against the newspapers, which were libellous, irresponsible and inciting ethnic violence, and his government had to move against the generals, one of whom was accused of corruption and the other of immorality. Ingabire, he claims, has links to rebel Hutus. The timing of events was coincidental; his government could not delay taking action just because the presidential election was imminent.
“The west has democracy because it has institutions that hold people accountable. What has killed Rwanda and Africa is that people are not held accountable,” he says. “So the question is, how do you want us to live? By allowing ministers or generals or mayors to run the show without accountability? Is that the form of democracy you want for us? We are saying no.”
Years on from the genocide of the minority dominant Tutsis and moderate Hutus, initiated by Hutu militia and politicians, no one believes that the two groups now live in universal harmony – even though ethnic identity is suppressed with an end to identity cards showing a person’s group, and children competing in school exams under a number, not a name.
But Kagame’s priority is food on the table. He hopes the next generation will be too busy making money to fight. Change is embraced. Things get done. The agriculture minister, a woman, is driving through potentially unpopular reforms of land use, persuading farmers to concentrate on the crops that grow best in their region against the tradition of subsistence farming.
Landlocked Rwanda is in discussions with its neighbours about lowering tariff barriers and forming an east African union. There are incentives for businesses to start up. And Kagame is rare among African leaders in his condemnation of dependence on foreign aid, which, he says, risks “depriving people of their dignity and not pushing them to work and uplift themselves, because that is what makes it sustainable”. He says: “I refuse to belong to the side that would accept to perpetuate that dependency on others”.
He puts a shot across the donors’ bows. “If it were entirely altruistic, why would the west be more interested in giving aid than in opening up for fair trade?”
Just a couple of miles away, Ingabire sits in state in a half-furnished bungalow. The houses, leafy gardens and wide, paved, streets of the 2020 Vision estate all look the same, but it’s impossible to mistake her house. On the pavement facing the high locked gate sits an armed guard on a wooden chair. Another is half-hidden by a hedge, talking on a mobile phone.
Ingabire cannot leave her house. She came back to stand against Kagame in the August election, but cannot get past the first hurdle. In order to register her party she must hold a rally of at least 200 supporters.
She says she has come to champion democracy because Kagame’s ruling party has failed to do so. “Sixteen years after the genocide we think it is time to move to the democratic system,” she says. “You can’t say because of the genocide that people can’t be free. I don’t agree with this.”
It is put to her that most people outside Rwanda think the country has made great progress in the past 16 years. “The problem with Kagame is that he says we have stability and development and we don’t need more,” she says. “My answer is that the stability we have in Rwanda is stability based on pressure. We have development in the hands of a little group.” Outside of the Kigali region, she says, poverty is unchanged.
Kagame insists that there is “concrete evidence” that Ingabire supported and helped finance the Hutu rebels of the Democratic Liberation Front (FDLR) in the Congo.
His foreign minister, the formidable and highly articulate Louise Mushikiwabo, who spent 20 years in the US and is married to an American, thinks Ingabire’s arrival is a threat to the hard-won truce between Tutsi and Hutu. She characterises Ingabire’s challenge as “very deliberate, controversial ethnic politics, this woman really has a genocidal ideology”.
Ingabire threw down the gauntlet on the day of her arrival, maintains Mushikiwabo. She went straight to the genocide memorial museum in Kigali, looked around and questioned why it did not commemorate the deaths of any Hutus who died in the violence. “That in Rwanda is revisionism,” she says. “We know that there were Hutus killed in the context of the genocide, but they weren’t targeted. The more you blur the lines, the more you think it was a free-for-all. To us it is so clear cut. The dynamics are not understood abroad. It is maybe because things look too normal in this country. But when you allow people to go out into the villages and start that sort of rhetoric, you are really walking into trouble.”
The opposition leader rejects the allegations made against her of support and funding for rebel Hutus in the Congo. She admits she went to Kinshasa twice, but not at the times alleged by the government. “They say I was in Kinshasa and met members of the FDLR in March and September 2008. I was not there in March but in February, not in September but October. I can prove it with my passport.” She went to ask the Congolese government for support for her political party, she says, just as she has visited many countries looking for backing.
Ingabire does not dispute the genocide of 1994, but her concern is clearly with what she thinks is the airbrushing of violence against Hutus.
“Before the genocide and after the genocide there was killing against the Hutu and against the Tutsis. Now the government of Kagame authorises only to talk about genocide against the Tutsis. They don’t accept that we talk about the crime against humanity committed before the genocide. That is the big problem we have. If we need to reconcile the Rwandan people we have to talk also about this killing before and after the genocide.”
She claims that the apparent reconciliation of Tutsi and Hutu is only surface deep. “They say don’t talk about Hutu or Tutsi, but we know that the problem we had in our country is based on the differences between the two groups. The thing we can do is to take our courage and talk about the problem. You can’t say, don’t talk about the problem and in time people will forget it. It is not true.”
She dismissed the hearings of the traditional gacaca courts, set up all over Rwanda to try cases against thousands of those involved in genocide, alleging that the RPF took control and that people did not dare speak their minds. “It is not a place where the victims meet the killers to talk about what happened.” Is it possible that violence could return? “Yes, of course,” she says.
Ingabire, whose husband and three children are still in the Netherlands, says she is back in Rwanda to stay. “I still believe that we will participate in the election, but if they go ahead and do everything to stop us, we will still be a political party,” she says. “I will stay here. Even if they put me in jail, I will stay here. One day I believe we will achieve what we want.”
About 45 minutes’ drive from Kigali there is a church where the sun shines through bullet holes in the wooden roof on to thousands of pieces of soiled and rotting clothing on the wooden benches below. They – and the shelves of skulls and arm and leg bones in an underground crypt – are all that remain of some 10,000 massacred Tutsis.
You can still distinguish children’s dresses and women’s skirts here. Machetes and knives lie on the bloodsoaked altar cloth. A young woman tells you calmly that the weapons were used to rip the unborn baby out of the womb of a Hutu woman who refused to kill her Tutsi husband. As you walk away, shaken, the question of democracy takes on a new relevance. Just 16 years on, is Rwanda ready?
May 29, 2010 4 Comments
Professor Peter Erlinder, just like his client Victoire Ingabire, is already having a taste of the “laws fortress” announced by President Kagame in one of his recent speeches.
Here is what the government daily New Times wrote this morning, a few hours before Professor Erlinder got arrested by Police for genocide negation.
Kigali – Peter Erlinder, the American lawyer who is in the country to defend Victoire Ingabire, the embattled leader of the yet-to-be-registered political party, FDU-Inkingi has not yet received accreditation from the relevant authorities, to practice in the country.
Erlinder, who was the lead counsel for Major Aloys Ntabakuze at the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), has been expressing his readiness to defend Ingabire in her ongoing case, but authorities say he has processes to follow before expressing his intentions.
Ingabire is facing charges of associating with a terrorist group, propagating the Genocide ideology, revisionism and ethnic division.
A senior lawyer at the Kigali Bar Association, the body that is responsible for accrediting all lawyers before they can practice in the country, has denied having received any application from the American lawyer asking for a go-ahead to practice.
“We have never stopped anyone from practicing in the country, as long as they fulfil the legal requirements–that is reciprocity, where two countries have a mutual arrangement to allow lawyers from either countries to practice,” the lawyer said.
“We also haven’t seen any documents from the bar association, from his country of origin to confirm whether indeed he is a recognised member of a bar association. Once we have these requirements, any one is allowed to practice. We haven’t received anything from Erlinder.”
In a phone interview with The New Times, Erlinder indeed agrees that there are procedures to be observed but could not confirm whether he has been given a green light to defend Ingabire.
“I have undertaken the processes, but at this moment, that is a radical question and I am not ready to speak about it this afternoon. I can talk about it tomorrow,” Erlinder said.
He said that he has written to the Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, and the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, informing them of his intentions but the Justice Minister in an interview, said the only communication he received was in form of greetings.
“I saw the letter but it only contained greetings to me. I am not responsible for any accreditations,” Karugarama said.
Ngoga also received a copy of the same letter but he says beyond the letter there other procedures to be followed.
“As far as the procedure to accredit a foreign lawyer to practice or appear in any case in Rwanda, I have no communication to that effect,” Ngoga said.
“Other communications from this lawyer, formal or through the press are short of that requirement.”
In an earlier interview with The New Times, Karugarama said that for Erlinder to be on Ingabire’s defence team, he should first meet the requirements that authorise lawyers to practice in Rwanda.
“There are laws that govern lawyers in Rwanda. It is not a jungle where everyone walks in to practice law. If he meets the conditions, defending someone is his right,” Karugarama said. “I don’t think a Rwandan lawyer can just go to America or any other European Country and start practicing law. I guess they also have laws in place. The fact that he defended Bagosora or any other Genocidaire does not give him passage to practice in Rwanda.”
Prior to travelling to Rwanda, Erlinder and a group of other lawyers of ICTR convened a conference in Brussels, Belgium which attracted several wanted Genocide fugitives, including Eugene Rwamucyo.
Rwamucyo, was arrested by French Police on Wednesday.
Erlinder is also a self-proclaimed genocide denier. A day before the 12th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide, he sent an open letter to Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, in which he clearly denied the genocide.
The letter contained statements that deny, minimize, justify the 1994 genocide and also attempted to portray a negative image of the current leadership by denying the role it played in halting the genocide.
He completely denies the fact that genocide took place in Rwanda and prefers to use ambiguous, misleading and negating terminologies such as “terrible massacres”, “horrific events”, “massive civilian killings” and “civilian-civilian massacres”.
Source: New Times.
May 28, 2010 3 Comments
Rwanda: “How I am treated will tell us a lot about the nature of the Rwandan government…”, Peter Erlinder
In an interview he had with Olivier Nyirubugara before flying to Kigali early this week, Professor Peter Erlinder was asked:
“How do you think you will be welcomed in Kigali?”
Professor Erlinder’s answer was:
“Well, if Kigali is a country which respects the rule of law and concept of freedom of expression and freedom of speech, I should be treated as any other professional would be. Of course how I am treated will tell us a lot about the nature of the government and the nature of prosecution against Madam Ingabire.”
Watch the interview:
Now that Professor Erlinder is arrested by Police in Kigali, the world will probably start to understand that the RPF-led Rwandan government will go to all extremes to silence anyone who dares bring the truth to the surface.
May 28, 2010 8 Comments
Kigali: American national Prof. Peter Erlinder is scheduled to appear in court following arrest by Police detectives over negating the Tutsi mass Genocide. The arrest of the fire-brand criminal lawyer comes as President Kagame prepares to leave for Paris for a France-Africa summit, RNA reports.
Mr. Erlinder was rounded up Friday morning by detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). He was immediately moved to the CID office in the Police headquarters located within walking distance of the American embassy.
The controversial attorney was arrested for denying the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, said Police Spokesman Eric Kayiranga. “He is accused of [denying the massacres] through publications, conferences, constantly denying that there was never Genocide in Rwanda. He has also said everything we say about the Genocide is a fabrication.”
The Police Spokesman said Prof. Erlinder will be handed to the National Prosecuting Authority which should culminate into an appearance in a court within 72 hours.
When contacted, U.S. Embassy public affairs officer Edwina Sagitto simply said: “The embassy is aware of the arrest of Peter Erlinder by Rwandan Police. Beyond that, the embassy cannot comment due to privacy concerns.”
Peter Erlinder is a professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States. He directs the non-profit International Humanitarian Law Institute, and he is the lead defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The attorney arrived in Kigali on Sunday from a conference in Belgium which has been described by government and Genocide survivors as platform for negationists. Several Genocide fugitives were invited as speakers, including Dr. Eugene Rwamucyo, who was arrested by French authorities on Tuesday.
Police spokesman Kayiranga said Prof. Erlinder was arrested five days later because the dossier was still being prepared. “We do not just detain people … it is done after a dossier is ready,” he said.
The prosecutions department told reporters that the suspect will be paraded in court anytime but within the prescribed timeframe of not more than seventy-two hours.
Mr. Erlinder was picked up at 8:30am from the Tunisian-owned Laico Hotel (formerly Novotel Hotel) in Kacyiru where he was staying. Incidentally, the hotel is located within view of the American embassy.
He is described in Rwanda as the ‘big fish defender’ because of his association with Victoire Ingabire, Genocide accused Col Theoneste Bagosora and most recently former First Lady Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana. All the three carry serious accusations related to the Tutsi mass slaughter.
The arrest comes a day after the US government declared its stance on Rwanda, for the first time in several years coming out strongly against the human rights situation in the country. The top US diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, demanded a “speedy, fair, and transparent trial” for Ingabire.
The American diplomat for Africa made reference to the suspended tabloids UMUVUGIZI and UMUSESO, as well as the Human Rights Watch researcher Carina Tertsakian who was refused a work permit in April. He also informed American lawmakers of the progress of the imminent trail of government critic Victoire Ingabire, as well as the registration of the two opposition parties.
“We have relayed our concerns about these developments to the Government of Rwanda, urging senior government leaders to respect freedoms of expression, press, association, and assembly,” Carson said Tuesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister and Government Spokesman Louise Mushikiwabo strongly dismissed the concerns.
“The concerns expressed by the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs over the state of rights and freedoms in Rwanda at this particular time need to be contextualized: it is a result of an out-of-Rwanda reading of the situation in Rwanda, with added election hype,” she said in an email message Thursday to RNA.
Meanwhile, after denouncing Prof. Peter Erlinder on Thursday in a statement, Genocide survivors on Friday took their anger to the American embassy. Carrying placards, a group of over 100 demonstrators including students in school uniform called for his arrest and prosecution.
Prof. Erlinder was part of a three-man team of lawyers who tried to serve President Kagame with a notice of suit at the Oklahoma University in April accusing him of responsibility for the assassination of ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana.
The suit was filed by Agathe Habyarimana and Sylvana Ntaryarima – the two widows to the presidents who died in the same plane on April 06 1994 – culminating into the Tutsi Genocide.
The arrest of the American lawyer also comes as President Kagame prepares to head to Paris for the France-Africa summit next week. It will be the first time the President has visited France since his time as a rebel leader.
May 28, 2010 2 Comments