ICTR defense lawyers in trouble over protesting Erlinder detention in Rwanda
Kigali – Defense attorneys Peter Robinson and Patrick Nimy Mayidika Ngimbi are risking jail and fines of US$10,000 each after being charged with contempt of court at the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), RNA can reveal.
Trial Chamber III judge Dennis Byron on Tuesday afternoon ruled that American Robinson and Belgian Nimy start preparing for their defense in proceedings which starts June 21. Incidentally, British Judge Byron is the President of the ICTR.
Trouble for the two defense attorneys started Monday when they refused to continue with their case unless the UN court condemns and acts on the prosecution by Rwanda of their colleague Peter Erlinder.
The bitter defense lawyers are representing Joseph Nzirorera – Ex-Secretary General of MRND, former Rwandan ruling party. Both Robinson Nimy are defending Nzirorera. The
The former official is charged along with the MRND party President Mathieu Ngirumpatse and his Vice-President Edouard Karemera.
Three lead Counsels in these cases – Peter Robinson, Dior Diagne Mbaye and Frédéric Weyl told court Monday that they could not continue with their work amid threats from Rwanda. The fact that Erlinder is being prosecuted, according to the attorneys, means all defense attorneys could be targeted.
Heated exchanges ensued between the three attorneys on these cases and the trial Judge Dennis Byron, after he dismissed their concerns and ordered them to continue with their work or they are punished.
Peter Robinson, the most vocal among the attorneys, refused to accept the Judge’s ruling to continue with examining a defense witness named Janvier Busogi who had been brought in from the United States.
In the Tuesday proceedings, when ordered to start cross-examining the witness, Robinson again defied the Judge. At this point, the furious Judge Byron decided to charge the two defense attorneys for Nzirorera on contempt of court.
“Mr. Robinson, it’s quite clear that you are not obeying our directives. And I think the Chamber does have a reason to believe that you may be in contempt of the Tribunal under rule 77 for directly disobeying a court order and refusing to conduct the examination of witness Janvier Busogi, who has travelled from the United States to testify in Arusha after the Tribunal overcame many expensive logistical and administrative obstacles,” said the judge.
“The Chamber…orders that Mr. Robinson and Mr. Nimy appear in court on Monday June 21st,” said Judge Byron.
If convicted, the two attorneys each risk jail terms of up to five years or a fine of US$10,000 or both.
Judge Byron had in the morning issued a warning to Peter Robinson under Rule 46(A) and ordered that he be reported to his Bar Association in the United States for obstructing the proceedings.