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Erlinder’s attorney apologises to Rwanda Government

Attempted suicide not a criminal offence – Prosecutor

KIGALI – Kurt Kerns, one of the attorneys on embattled American lawyer Peter Erlinder’s legal team, yesterday apologised for his derogatory comments he made directed towards the Rwandan Police.

Erlinder was arrested last week on charges of Genocide Denial and is expected to be produced in court soon.

In an email he sent and was reproduced in US media outlets, Kerns referred to the country’s police officers as ‘punks’.

An apologetic Kerns yesterday told the media that he would have certainly chosen a better term and regretted any inconvenience his “stupid American comments” would have caused, and promised it would never happen again.

“The other day I read the statements of the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, and I just wanted to offer my sincerest and deepest heartfelt apologies, for any kind of words that used that Rwandan people would find offensive,” Kerns said.

He added that he was not trying to justify the use of the word and agrees he would have chosen another word, adding that he is ready to put that behind him and continue working on the case with authorities.

“The Prosecutors have been very professional…I want to offer my heartfelt apologies and I can assure you it won’t happen again,” Kerns added.

Kerns said that his client is steadily recovering and they are hopeful to get the process going. Erlinder tried to end his life on Wednesday by mixing 50 tablets in water and drinking the concoction but the police intervened in time to save him.

“Today we met the Prosecutors and we had a very favourable and professional discussion and I hope we can work together in the interest of justice, to find justice,” Kerns said.

After vehemently rejecting the suicide reports describing them as a total setup, the family of Erlinder has finally admitted that it was indeed true that he attempted to end his life after American consular officials in Rwanda briefed them.

According to Minnesota’s Star Tribune, the family quoted Erlinder as telling a consular official, “I couldn’t spend another night in jail.”

Erlinder’s wife, Masako Usui, also disclosed that he has been on anti-depressants for most of his adult life, but she didn’t think it was a factor in his decision to take an overdose.

[New Times]

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June 4, 2010   1 Comment

Green Party to Rwanda Government: Stop meddling in PS Imberakuri’s management

Position of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda on Me. Bernard NTAGANDA of PS IMBERAKURI:

We strongly believe that he is the real Leader and President of PS IMBERAKURI. Anything contrary to that is just a joke and a game to benefit the powers to be.

The Government should learn how to become impartial and stop meddling itself in the management of other political parties and should follow all the legal procedures other than promoting divisionism in opposition political parties and then later pretend by branding that the opposition parties have internal problems.

We strongly condemn this behavior, we should learn from what happened in the 1990’s, when the Government in power then started killing opposition politicians and then blamed it on the opposition parties themselves that they have internal wrangles. History tells us that this later coasted the country too much.

We call upon the RPF led Government to borrow a leaf from history and resist any behavior that may entice it to cause political wrangles in the opposition parties. It’s the RPF that will pay heavily.

We call upon the National police to fully investigate and bring to book the architects of violence on the attack of Ms. Christine MUKABUNANE.

RPF should remember that when it called the Rwandan Government in the 1990’s to stop its bad behavior and it never answered, this coasted the country too much, leading to a loss of more than million lives. So RPF should not keep a deaf hear.

Kigali, 3rd June 2010
Frank HABINEZA,
Founding President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

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June 4, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda: Convicting and jailing Ms.Victoire Ingabire will increase the political tension, says Green Party

Position of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda on Ms.Victoire INGABIRE UMUHOZA of FDU INKINGI:

Convicting and jailing Ms.Victoire Ingabire will not solve any political problem. It will rather increase the political tension. An open society with open public debates on national contentious issues affecting the Rwandan people is the only best solution and key to a better future of Rwanda.

Political harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, forcing people into exile, all these solutions do not guarantee a better future for Rwanda. Freezing political space will not force people in their hearts to Love and belong to RPF. They will only learn how to become better hypocrites and this is very dangerous for the future of the nation of Rwanda.

FDU INKINGI should not be denied its right of existence, since not all its members have been accused or arrested on any crime.

Kigali, 3rd June 2010
Frank HABINEZA,
Founding President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

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June 4, 2010   No Comments

Green Party defends RPF about the killings of Hutus in Rwanda

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda has published on June 3rd 2010 its positon on the killings of RPF on Hutu populations.

Position of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda on Crimes against Humanity:

During the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, the regime in power also targeted political opponents from other tribes. Many more people (Hutus) were killed. The then rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) was fighting with Government Soldiers. Some RPA soldiers killed innocent civilians. It was not RPF policy to kill HUTUS. The RPA soldiers who killed people were severely punished and some evidences are available. It may be possible that not all were punished. Investigations can be made and those who committed crimes against humanity be brought to book.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, will set up a Truth and Justice Commission, which will help to resolve this problem and bring about genuine reconciliation in the Rwandan people.

We shall also establish a National Rwandan Dialogue, which will bring all people from different walks of life both in the country and Diaspora to help in setting a sustainable Rwanda, where Rwandans will have justice, peace and tranquility.

We believe that all those who committed the genocide and crimes against humanity should be punished and Never Again should be Never Again. The problem of FDLR is a political problem. It cannot be solved using military might. It needs political answers and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda has those answers, using its principles of : Non-Violence, Social Justice, Participatory Democracy, Respect for Diversity, Respect for Human Rights, Sustainable Development and Ecological Wisdom.

Frank HABINEZA,
Founding President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

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June 4, 2010   No Comments

Democratic Green Party of Rwanda calls for immediate release of US lawyer Peter Erlinder

Position of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda on AMERICAN LAWYER, Prof. Peter ERLINDER:

We wonder in the first place why the Government of Rwanda, allowed Prof. Peter ERLINDER to enter the country if they knew very well that he was a genocide denier. We still wonder why they did not make him ‘persona non grata’ and instead went ahead to arrest him from his Hotel in Kigali.

The International Community should now show its true friendship to the people of Rwanda and Request the Rwandan Government to respect the laws it put in place by itself with great support of your tax payers hard earned money.

We strongly condemn this arrest and call upon his immediate release. Even though Rwanda is a sovereign state and would like to prove to the International Community that it is able enough to manage its duties and thus does not need any foreign advice, the International Law Principles should be applied in this case.

Kigali, 3rd June 2010
Frank HABINEZA,
Founding President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

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June 4, 2010   No Comments

Green Party believes “genocide ideology” in Rwanda started with the abolition of the monarchy in Rwanda

In a statement issued at Kigali on June 3rd, 2010, the Founding President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Mr. Frank HABINEZA clarifies his party’s position on the notion of ‘genocide ideology’. They believe that the genocide ideology takes roots from the 1959 Hutu revolution which consecrated the abolition of the monarchy and the proclamation of the Republic.
Here is the Green Party’s declaration:

Our position on Genocide Ideology:

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda believes that indeed the problem of genocide ideology started as far back as 1950’s after the abolition of the monarchy and culminated into the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. This genocide ideology could be acts, statements and plans to exterminate fellow Rwandans but since the 1994 genocide is still fresh in our minds, this ideology is more targeting the Tutsis other than anybody else.

We strongly condemn anyone who may have plans to take the country back in the situation of 1994 Genocide.

We believe that the Law on Genocide ideology should be more clarified and fine-tuned so that it is not used by anyone to freeze political thoughts and descent voices on pretext that they have a genocide ideology. This would minimize the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of expression.

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June 4, 2010   1 Comment

Rwanda: Prof. Erlinder took overdose pills as a strategy to leave jail

Rwandan police had announced on Wednesday that jailed lawyer Peter Erlinder had tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of his medication. (see Jailed american lawyer Erlinder in ‘remorse state’ and “ready to retract his statements in writing and never return to Rwanda” ).
But he told consular officials that he took an overdose of his prescription medicine so he would be sent from a squalid jail to a hospital.

The message from law professor Peter Erlinder of St. Paul, Minn., was conveyed from the consulate in Rwanda to his family, who said Thursday they understood his actions to be part of an effort to escape a jail cell where he feared for his safety and was staying with seven or eight other inmates.

At the same time, the Rwandan police spokesperson reversed their initial statement and said on Thursday that they “regret the baseless statements aired yesterday on Peter’s attempt suicide… It was wrong because it did not happen”.

Also, the US State Department on Thursday has called on the Rwandan government to release professor Erlinder on “compassionate grounds”.

Erlinder was arrested on Friday in Rwanda on allegations he denied the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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June 4, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda: The strange case of Peter Erlinder

By KEVIN DIAZ, RANDY FURST and JEREMY HERB in Star Tribune.

Peter ErlinderProf. Peter Erlinder

The Twin Cities lawyer, a champion of unsavory people and unpopular causes, sits in a Rwandan jail, accused of conspiring to deny that nation’s 1994 genocide.

WASHINGTON – The clients of Peter Erlinder do not generally win popularity contests. From accused cop killers and sex offenders to a suspected Al-Qaida associate, the Twin Cities attorney has spent a career brashly representing outcasts who stir deep public animosities. No apologies given.

Now the 62-year-old William Mitchell law professor sits in a Rwandan jail, accused by the government there of being in league with those who would deny the Rwandan genocide.

“We understand that human rights activists schooled in the U.S. Bill of Rights may find this objectionable,” said Rwandan government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo. “But for Rwandans — schooled in the tragedy of the 1994 genocide — Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.”

On Wednesday, Erlinder’s relatives were headed to Washington to press for his freedom. Yet despite efforts by Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum to intercede with the State Department, the Obama administration has yet to call for Erlinder’s release.

To those who know him, the case that took Erlinder to Rwanda is of a piece with the work he has done for decades on behalf of unpopular defendants, many of whom see themselves as political prisoners.

“It was almost a joke in school,” said his daughter Sarah Erlinder, an attorney in Flagstaff, Ariz. “What does your father do? Oh, he represents cop killers and sex offenders. Now it’s war criminals.”

Over the years, Erlinder has defended American Indian fishing rights activists and championed war protesters and civil liberties activists. His law school job gives him the freedom to pursue his passion, frequently pro bono, for clients who are often indigent.

Along the way, he’s also taken on less savory cases: Minnesota sex offender James Poole, a physician convicted of assaulting 11 patients; Minneapolis cop killer A.C. Ford, a reputed gang member; and Mohammed Abdullah Warsame, a Canadian citizen who aided Al-Qaida.

“He seems to gravitate toward unpopular cases and unpopular causes,” said Klobuchar, a former Hennepin County attorney who has known Erlinder for years.

Ted Dooley, a St. Paul attorney and friend of Erlinder, said the professor is “unabashedly, unashamedly left. … He believes the people are the power.”

In Rwanda, where some 800,000 people lost their lives in ethnic conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, Erlinder has been trying to rewrite the history of good and bad in a conflict that the international community has largely blamed on the Hutu.

“As I understand it, I don’t think he’s really denying that there was a genocide,” said William Mitchell professor emeritus Kenneth Kirwin, who has known Erlinder for decades. “I think he is more concerned with who was more at fault, or more responsible.”

In 2003 Erlinder took over as lead attorney for one of four main defendants charged with genocide in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He quickly became a critic of the tribunals, even participating in a brief strike challenging their fairness.

Took on Rwandan president

Three of the defendants, including Erlinder’s client, were convicted of genocide and sentenced to life in prison. But in a victory for the defense, all four were acquitted of conspiring to commit genocide before an April 1994 presidential assassination that sparked the mass killings.

That finding undermined the idea that the genocide was planned before the assassination, said Scott Straus, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin.

During the six-year trial, Erlinder took aim at Rwandan President Paul Kagame, arguing that Kagame also should have been on trial.

In April, Erlinder was one of three attorneys who filed a suit against Kagame in U.S. federal court, alleging that Kagame was behind the 1994 assassination.

Knowing he would not be well received by Kagame, Erlinder sought the attention of Minnesota’s congressional delegation before departing.

Kagame, Erlinder wrote in a May 6 letter to Minnesota lawmakers, had “specifically targeted” him and other human rights lawyers for “discrediting or assassination.” Noting Rwanda’s long history of violence and assassination, Erlinder concluded, “I must take the threat seriously.”

“He knew exactly what he was getting into,” said Bill Harper, McCollum’s chief of staff. “He knew it was dangerous.”

Friends, family supportive

On Friday, Erlinder was arrested in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, where he said he was representing opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, a Hutu charged with promoting genocide ideology, the same accusation leveled at Erlinder.

Ingabire has been released on probation. Erlinder is scheduled to appear before a Rwandan judge Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the State Department released a statement saying it is aware of the arrest but that the decision “was the responsibility of the Rwandan government.” The United States has close ties with Rwanda, providing an estimated $208 million in aid this year.

Erlinder’s ordeal leaves colleagues and family members worried but supportive.

“I am very proud of him,” said his Japanese-born wife, Masako Usui, speaking from her St. Paul home. “He represents real people and he’s brave enough to go against power.”

“Peter believes social change comes from the streets,” rather than from the court system, said Twin Cities attorney Bruce Nestor.

Erlinder is being represented by another American attorney, Kurt Kerns, who reported that Erlinder spent part of the weekend in a hospital, overcome by fever and dizziness, partly a result of high blood pressure.

Activists who have spoken with Erlinder’s attorneys since his arrest said they indicated Rwanda is serious about bringing formal charges, possibly Wednesday. But his supporters doubt Erlinder will be easily cowed by Rwandan authorities.

“To a certain degree he is fearless,” Scott Erlinder said of his brother, “but he also believes in doing the right thing, and I don’t think he thought that the Kagame regime would do something this stupid.”

Source: Star Tribune – by Kevin Diaz, Randy Furst and Jeremy Herb.

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June 4, 2010   1 Comment

US Calls For Rwanda To Release Professor State Department Calls For Rwanda To Release Jailed Professor On ‘compassionate Grounds’

Washington – The State Department on Thursday called on the Rwandan government to release a jailed U.S. law professor. Peter Erlinder has been in custody since Friday on charges he denied the central African country’s 1994 genocide.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Thursday that U.S. officials were closely monitoring Erlinder’s situation and have been in touch with officials in Rwanda.

“We want to be sure that he is accorded all of his rights,” Crowley said. “We are pressing the Rwandan government to resolve this case quickly and would like to see him released on compassionate grounds.”

Erlinder, of St. Paul, Minn., was moved from a jail in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, to a hospital on Wednesday after what Rwandan officials said was an apparent suicide attempt.

However, the 62-year-old told consular officials that he took an overdose of his own prescription medication so that he would be sent from a squalid jail to a hospital. That message was conveyed from the consulate in Rwanda to his family, who said Thursday they understood his actions to be part of an effort to escape a jail cell where he feared for his safety and was staying with seven or eight other inmates.

“It was a strategy for him to get out of that jail,” said Gena Berglund, a legal assistant to Erlinder. “He told the consulate, ‘I couldn’t spend one more night in jail.”

Erlinder’s family traveled to Washington on Thursday to press for his release. They spoke with reporters on Thursday morning and were expected to meet with State Department officials later in the day.

Sarah Erlinder, Peter Erlinder’s daughter, said she was elated the State Department had called for her father’s release. She and other family members said earlier Thursday they thought a public call for his release would spur action from Rwanda, which is closely allied with the U.S. government and receives millions of dollars in aid.

“That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time,” she said. “It’s been such a roller coaster, good news and bad news coming at the same time.”

Family members, including Erlinder’s wife, Masako Usui, said they want him released as soon as possible because they fear for his health.

“I don’t know anything about his condition,” Usui said, noting he was on various medications.

Erlinder is a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul with a reputation for taking on difficult, often unpopular defendants and causes. A past president of the progressive National Lawyers Guild, he leads a group of defense lawyers at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The tribunal is trying the alleged leaders of the 1994 genocide.

The Rwandan government has accused him of violating the country’s laws which forbid minimizing the 1994 genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by Hutus in 100 days. Erlinder has not contended that massive violence did not occur, but has said it’s inaccurate to blame just one side.

Erlinder was in Kigali to help with the legal defense of Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader running against President Paul Kagame in Aug. 9 elections. Ingabire is accused of promoting genocidal ideology.

In late April, Erlinder helped file a lawsuit in Oklahoma that accused Rwanda’s current President, Paul Kagame, of ordering the 1994 deaths of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira, igniting the genocide.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the widows of the two presidents. The presidents were killed when their plane was shot down.

Erlinder has made the allegations before, citing tribunal documents and books by former tribunal prosecutors. Kagame’s government denies the accusations.

Source: Associated Press.

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June 4, 2010   No Comments

ICTR defense lawyer Peter Robinson calls for trials delay until case arrest ICTR lawyer Erlinder resolved

Mr. Peter Robinson, an ICTR lawyer, has called for a delay in his client’s ICTR trial until the role of how statements made and positions stated by ICTR defense council will affect the potential for other current and former ICTR lawyers to be arrested internationally in a similar manner to Mr. Erlinder.
Mr Peter Robinson writes:

l. Joseph Nzirorera is scheduled to resume the presentation of his defence case on Monday 7 June 2010 for three days, and then resume again on 21 June 2010. He respectfully moves the Trial Chamber to cancel the three day sitting during the week of 7 June2 010.

2. On 28 May 2010, Peter Erlinder, Lead Counsel for Aloys Ntabakuze at the
ICTR, was arrested in Rwanda on charges of negationism of genocide. According to
reports published in the New York Times, a spokesman of the Rwandan government
said that Mr. Erlinder was accused of “denying the genocide” and “negationism” from
statements he had made at the tribunal in Arusha
, as well as “in his books, in
publications.” (emphasis added)

3. Mr. Nzirorera’s defence team deems that it is no longer safe to advocate for an
accused person at this Tribunal. Its members do not wish to subject themselves to
prosecution in Rwanda, which could lead to Interpol arrest warrants as well as Bar
disciplinary proceedings simply for doing their jobs. Therefore, the defence team of Mr.
Nzirorera is not in a position to proceed with his trial until matters relating to Mr.
Erlinder’s arrest are clarified and resolved.

4. Mr. Nzirorera and his defence team urge the President and Registrar of the
Tribunal to use their good offices in the meantime to find a solution to this crisis.

PETER ROBINSON
Lead Counsel for Joseph Nzirorera
(http://www.peterrobinson.com/ICTR/Motion%20for%20Continuance_Erlinder.pdf)

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June 4, 2010   No Comments