Peter Erlinder – the American lawyer and Professor of Law who was jailed by Kagame regime last year for genocide denial when he went to Rwanda to defend opposition politician Victoire Ingabire – still bears the scars of his traumatic experience in Rwanda jail. He has been so scared and traumatised that he didn’t even dare to go back to Tanzania (Rwanda’s neighbour hosting the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) to the defend his client Aloys Ntabakuze. This prompted the ICTR last month to sanction him and bar him from the tribunal as defense counsel.
Now, Rwanda Prosecutor fuels Erlinder’s anxiety further by announcing that he still intends to summon him to Rwandan court. He warns him not to try to ‘jump bail’ !
Kigali — Rwanda will issue summons to the controversial American lawyer, Peter Erlinder, to face charges related to Genocide denial and revisionism, when the appropriate time comes.
Addressing a news conference on Monday the Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, said that the America lawyer, who was last month banned by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), will some day have his day in court to answer the charges.
Ngoga emphasised that nothing will deter the Prosecution from pursuing Erlinder and that his case will not end anywhere else or by any other means but rather in the courtroom because there are no plans to abandon the case or drop the charges.
“He was released on bail and he remains on bail. We have since continued our investigations to strengthen our case and get ourselves ready to institute a substantive case against him,” Ngoga said.
“The fact that we haven’t filed or the fact that we haven’t summoned him to come back here is one that depends mainly on our priorities and not on our readiness. We are ready and we are just looking at the appropriate time,” he added
The Prosecutor General pointed out that whether Erlinder responds or not, was a matter within his reach, but warned that mechanisms that deal with people who jump bail do exist and will be applied on him, including issuing Interpol with an alert.
Ngoga said that in the “near future” when prosecution is ready with the case, Erlinder will be issued with a notice and the public will be informed as well.
The Prosecutor General further said that even with his recent downfall with the ICTR, Erlinder continues to peddle allegations about Rwanda, referring to him as an “attention seeker” who has failed to score credit in his profession as a lawyer.
“We are not party of the decision against him by ICTR. He just remains to be an attention seeker. Somebody who having failed to gain professional credits in the court where he was supposed to practice,” Ngoga said.
“He is instead continuing to make up stories to remain in the headlines. We rather think professionalism could be acquired in lecture rooms where he teaches and in the courtroom where he practices, not through blogs and other avenues in the media,” he added.
Ngoga said that the falsehoods created by Erlinder constitute his lack of professionalism which the ICTR sanctioned him for, noting that his conduct will, however, not stop the case from proceeding.
Erlinder, who was arrested in May last year and later released on bail, is facing charges of Genocide denial and minimising the 1994 Genocide. He was granted bail on “medical and humanitarian grounds.”
In a related case, Ngoga announced that the case involving Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the leader of the yet-to-be-registered party FDU-Inkingi, will go into substance beginning May 16.
Ngoga said that despite some countries failing to cooperate or acting slowly in submitting the evidence Rwanda requested for, there is quite enough evidence collected by the prosecution to allow the case to proceed.
He noted that among the countries that cooperated include Holland, where her house was searched and one witness who gave “very critical” information to the case was interviewed. Others include Burundi and D.R Congo.
Ngoga noted that the evidence obtained from foreign jurisdiction, including Holland, where Ingabire and her family have lived for 16 years, makes the allegations that her case is a political, baseless.
May 6, 2011 1 Comment
By Didas Gasana and Ann Garrison
Dutch Gov’t instructs embassy to monitor her trial as state security operatives hatch plans to buy witnesses
When the Director of Public Prosecution ordered the re-arrest of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, he told both local and international media that the prosecution is in possession of new and strong incriminating evidence linking her to forming and funding a terrorist outfit, the Coalition of Democratic Forces. Prosecution convinced Gasabo Intermediate Court that the opposition icon should be provisionally detained because of the serious nature of charges and impeccable evidence against her. The court ordered her detention for 30 days, threw her in Kigali Maximum Prison (1930) as prosecution compiled the final dossier, promising to produce her in courts of law, soonest.
But that has not been the case. Instead, incompatible scenarios have emerged.
With the expiry of Ingabire’s 30 days provisional detention earlier this week, prosecution produced her before Gasabo Intermediate Court, praying for the extension of her provisional detention for another 30 days.
And, on November 26, 2010, Gasabo court judge extended her provisional detention for another 30 days in respect to the Prosecutor’s request.
Prosecution requested for extension of provisional detention seeking extra time for certification of e-mail correspondences Ingabire allegedly had with the FDLR and further communication with some European governments, particularly the Dutch government, on matters relating to Ingabire’s terrorist activities.
But this contradicts Martin Ngoga’s statement after Ingabire’s arrest, when he said the prosecution has strong evidence to incriminate her.
This begs the question: If the prosecution is still hunting for evidence in European nations, where is the incriminating evidence Ngoga said he has?
After the judge ruled that Ingabire’s provisional detention be extended, the handcuffed opposition firebrand courageously comforted her supporters saying: “do not despair, all earthly things must wear to an end”, before returning to her new home 1930, for another 30 days.
Her lawyers told The Newsline on phone from the Rwandan capital Kigali that they are appealing the decision in the High Court this week.
Judicial independence questioned
Meanwhile, Ingabire’s party, the United Democratic Forces, in a statement sent to The Newsline, question the impartiality of the Rwandan judicial system, insisting the outcome of Ingabire’s trial is a foregone conclusion.
“The independence of justice in Rwanda is a crucial question. Most of the judges are members of the ruling party and execute orders from the regime,” reads part of the statement. The opposition party Secretary General takes a swipe at President Kagame’s remarks in an interview with The Ugandan Daily Monitor, May 25, 2010, in which the President said Ingabire will certainly be where she belongs, to conclude that Ingabire is in prison on Kagame’s orders. “Which judge can contradict the President and where is he going to get asylum or life insurance from,” the Secretary General asks.
He cites the suspension of military court judges Brigadier General Steven Kalyango and and Lt. Colonel Marc Sebagani for clearing the detained Colonel Deogene Mudenge of all charges, as proof of persecution of independent judges. “This is a bad precedent. No judge in Rwanda now can set free a person without seeking consent of the powers that be,” he charged.
Behind the scenes schemes
The opposition camp alleges members of the UDF Inkingi who were arrested in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri are being offered guilty plea deals by the prosecution in exchange of false accusations of waging war and, fake testimonies against Ingabire Victoire for terrorist acts, illegal detention and smuggling of firearms.
And sources within Rwanda’s Directorate of Military Intelligence told this paper on condition of anonymity that Rwanda’s intelligence is on manhunt for FDLR fighters in DRC to pin Ingabire on charges of collaborating with them, in exchange of hefty sums of money. “Some are already here and are undergoing intense training and rehearsals in case they meet strict cross-examination by the defense lawyers,” said the confidential source, who declined to be named for security reasons.
This is not the first time such schemes emerge. Prior to her first arrest, The Newsline’s sister newspaper Umuseso reported a highly clandestine plot by Rwanda’s secret security services to offer hefty sums of money in exchange of false testimonies against Ingabire.
Rwandan exiles and supporters have demonstrated in Brussels, the Hague and London since her arrest, and the new Dutch Parliament, now led by a party best translated into English as Liberal Conservative, seems to be moving towards a vote to sustain a 2008 decision to cut economic aid to Kagame’s regime because of its human rights abuses in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
H. Vincent Harris, a Dutch news media consultant and writer who explores the impact of migrants on democratic development, particularly in relation to the Great Lakes region, says that Ingabire has growing support in The Netherlands.
“Her husband and children are here, and she was a working, law abiding, respectable, taxpaying resident for 16 years before her return to Rwanda to try to contest the presidential election against Kagame. Church people who have influence with the Dutch Parliament have collected over 1,000 signatures and lobbied the Dutch Parliament to do whatever it can to ensure her safety and human rights.
“Parliament has already instructed its embassy staff to attend Ingabire’s trial to bear witness, even though they don’t think there’s any chance it will be fair,” Harris is quoted saying.
Harris also says that the Dutch Parliament is likely in December to reconfirm its 2008 decision to cut off economic aid to Rwanda because of its concern about Rwanda’s human rights record. In 2008, he says, they were concerned with reports of Rwanda’s human rights abuses in D.R. Congo, particularly those of CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People) militia leader Laurent Nkunda, who was finally arrested and imprisoned in January 2009, although, in a highly disturbing development, his CNDP militia was then integrated into the Congolese Army.
“The new Dutch Parliament is particularly concerned about the ‘U.N Mapping Report’ released on October 1,” Harris added.
The “Mapping Report” documents the Rwandan government’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and massacres of Hutu civilians carried out by Rwandan forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1993 and 2003, that an international court would be expected to prosecute as genocide crimes.
Harris says that if, as expected, the Dutch Parliament sustains its freeze on budget support to Kagame’s regime and makes a strong statement as to why they are doing so, it could put to task other European nations and the US that continue to prop Rwanda financially, diplomatically and militarily.
December 3, 2010 No Comments
“Paul Rusesabagina is next after Ingabire” – says Rwandan prosecutor
Kigali – Government has evidence that exiled opposition politician Paul Rusesabagina and jailed Victoire Ingabire have been in constant contact and fundraising for the FDLR rebels, says the Prosecutor General.
Three former FDLR commanders Lt. Col Tharcisse Nditurende, Major Vital Uwumuremyi and Captain Jean Marie Vianney Karuta, all charged as Ingabire’s accomplices have provided valuation information on the link between Ingabire and Rusesabagina, according to Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga.
Rusesabagina is the inspiration behind the Hollywood movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ in which he supposedly saved some 1200 people from being killed during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.
Before 2004, Rusesabagina was a taxi driver in Brussels, but using the money and fame from the movie, Rusesabagina has become one of the fiercest critics to President Kagame and his government.
With Ingabire facing terrorism charges over forming the CDF armed wing of her FDU Inkingi party, prosecution says Rusesagabina has been wiring money from his base in the United States to the FDLR rebels.
Ngoga says money in US dollar bills was wired from San Antonio (State of Texas) in the US to accounts in Burundi, DRC and Dar-es-salaam. No details have been availed by Ngoga as exactly the amounts which have been transferred and the dates.
The FDLR is a terrorist group and transferring such a large amount of money is a serious criminal offence, said Ngoga.
Meanwhile, the National Prosecutions Department says it has received indication from the United States and the Netherlands that they will cooperate with providing requested information to aid in the prosecution of Ingabire. Government had previously said Ingabire’s other cases have stalled because other countries were not cooperating.
The fiery government critic is spending her first day in the maximum security ‘1930’ prison after the Gasabo Intermediate Court ruled to remand her for 30 days. She has already filed an appeal against the ruling she angrily described in court on Tuesday as politically motivated.
October 27, 2010 3 Comments
Kigali – State prosecutors in the terrorism case against opposition politician Victoire Ingabire have accused some countries of not cooperating in the investigations into her “terrorist activities”, but also welcomed the support that some governments in this region have offered.
Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said immediately after Ingabire was refused bail by the Gasabo Intermediate Court that ongoing investigation into the activities of Ingabire would be “far-reaching” – with information expected to come from many places.
In a statement, Ngoga thanked countries in the region for their collaboration and urged other countries from which Rwanda had requested information, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States to cooperate in what he called “this far-reaching terrorist investigation”.
“In public, Victoire Ingabire masquerades as a politician. But behind the scenes she operates as a terrorist leader and financier,” Ngoga was quoted as saying.
Ingabire is charged along with a former FDLR commander Major Vital Uwumuremyi of planning to set up a rebel group – CDF, which would be the armed wing of the yet-to-be registered FDU Inkingi party, which Ingabire heads. Prosecution has labeled the group a terrorist oganisation intent on overthrowing a legitimate government.
In court on Monday and Tuesday, it was not clear if Major Uwumuremyi was being treated as a co-accused to Ingabire or a prosecution witness, as he was brought in by prosecution as one of its witnesses. He was also charged with the same cases.
On Tuesday, as the court ruled to deny Ingabire bail and remanding her to 30 days in jail as investigations continue, she erupted in an outburst – accusing the judiciary of working for the ruling RPF party. She has described the charges against her as fabricated and politically motivated, and has vowed to appeal the verdict.
Ngoga said in the statement: “Ms. Ingabire’s personal safety is assured throughout the judicial process and that she will receive a fair trial”.
In the meantime, Ingabire spends her first night in the maximum security ‘1930’ prison in Kigali, as she prepares the defense for the bail appeal. Since October 14, she has been held at the Kicukiro police station, according to police.
Her party has claimed that she has been refused food and a mattress which have been provided by them – calling the conditions in the cell as inhumane. The group also says Ingabire has been having her handcuffs all the time.
The Police have dismissed these concerns, as has the Prosecutor General Ngoga, who said Ingabire would not be treated any different from other inmates.
It has not been clear if Ingabire was being held in a cell with other suspects in custody there, or separately – considering the charges against her.
October 27, 2010 1 Comment
A court in Rwanda Tuesday denied bail to Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader arrested earlier this month, a statement from the prosecutor’s office said.
“The Gasabo Intermediate Court refused Victoire Ingabire bail on charges that include collaborating with a terrorist organisation,” the statement said.
“In public, Victoire Ingabire masquerades as a politician. But behind the scenes she operates as a terrorist leader and financier,” chief prosecutor Martin Ngoga was quoted as saying.
Ingabire, the leader of the unregistered United Democratic Forces (FDU), was arrested October 14 in Kigali on the basis of information given by a former military officer for “organising a terrorist group”.
According to police, the officer, who was arrested the day before Ingabire on the Rwanda-DR Congo border, said he had received her assistance to “set up a military wing of the FDU”.
“Mr Ngoga said that Ms. Ingabire’s personal safety is assured throughout the judicial process and that she will receive a fair trial,” the statement said. Ngoga thanked countries in the region for their collaboration and urged other countries from which Rwanda had requested information, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States to cooperate in what he called “this far-reaching terrorist investigation”.
Ingabire, who has appealed the court decision, was first arrested in April on accusations of associating with a terrorist group, denying genocide, promoting genocide ideology and division.
Key among those accusations is her alleged association with the DR Congo-based Hutu rebels Kigali blames for involvement in the genocide.
After her release, she was placed under police investigation and barred from travelling outside the capital Kigali pending trial.
Authorities also barred her attempts to register the FDU and run for the August 9 presidential election which was resoundingly won by President Paul Kagame.
In the Netherlands, the family of Ingabire is worried. Ingabires daughter Raissa (21) : “I fear for her destiny. I know her situation. I know how she’s suffering. Since she has been arrested, I did not talk to her. I cannot write her.”
October 27, 2010 No Comments
Audio: UN Tribunal confirms Rwanda has green light to prosecute US lawyer Peter Erlinder for genocide denial
Law professor Peter Erlinder, jailed in May in Rwanda and released in June on bail, will be criminally charged with denying the genocide that devastated that country in the early 1990s, according to that Rwanda’s chief prosecutor, Martin Ngoga.
Erlinder, 62, is a well-known human rights lawyer who had travelled to Rwanda to represent Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, an opposition leader who was barred from challenging President Paul Kagame in the Aug. 9 elections. Ingabire was arrested in April, released on bail and placed under house arrest, and then rearrested in October on charges of genocide denial and terrorism.
Earlier this year, Erlinder helped file suit in U.S. federal court (Oklahoma) alleging that Kagame was the mastermind of the violence that triggered the 1994 genocide.
October 25, 2010 1 Comment
On Oct. 21, Rwandan Chief Prosecutor Martin Ngoga announced that he wants U.S. law professor and U.N. Rwanda Tribunal lead defense counsel, Peter Erlinder, back in court to stand trial for “genocide denial” based on articles written in the U.S. and published on the internet.
Here is the statement made by Prof. Erlinder:
St. Paul, Oct. 21 – Following my release for medical reasons, the well-publicized myth that the Kagame dictatorship had changed, that misled both me and my former client, Madame Ingabire, has been exposed.
After my release, the banning of all serious political opposition, the beheading of the vice-president of the Green Party, Madame Ingabire’s arrest, the assassination of journalists, the attempted assassination of Mr. Kagame’s former chief of staff who defected to South Africa, the assassination of another ICTR defense counsel and Kagame’s “election” with 93 percent of the vote caused the Obama White House to question the state of democracy in Rwanda on Aug. 13:
“(A) series of disturbing events prior to the election includ(es) the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights activist, the barring of two opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists … (S)tability and prosperity will be difficult to sustain without broad political debate and open political participation … Democracy is about more than holding elections.”
On Aug. 28, Le Monde and the New York Times leaked a 600-page report from the files of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights detailing crimes of Kagame’s troops in the Congo between 1993-2003, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are the same sort of crimes Chief ICTR Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte’s 2009 English language memoir says were committed by Kagame’s troops in Rwanda in 1994, but her honesty cost her job in 2003 when she refused to follow U.S. orders NOT to prosecute Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) at the ICTR.
These U.N. documents also confirm the evidence I put in the ICTR record that acquitted my client of “conspiracy and planning to commit genocide” in a February 2009 judgment, for which I have been accused of “genocide denial” and “spreading rumors.” Observing that the ICTR judgment runs counter to the victor’s description on the internet of the how the war developed makes me a “genocide denier” in Rwanda. My “crime” has been to say that, if there was no long-term planning and conspiracy, the victor’s story of the “Rwandan genocide” must be re-examined.Professor Peter Erlinder
But my prosecution has larger implications as well. If U.N. immunity does not apply to any prosecution of defense counsel by the Kagame government, then all defense counsel and defendants have reason to fear that meaningful representation at the U.N. Tribunal will be impossible, especially since the former chief U.N. prosecutor has confirmed that Kagame and the RPF should be in the dock themselves.
Professor Peter Erlinder is the director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute at the William Mitchell College of Law, 875 Summit Av., St. Paul, Minn.
October 25, 2010 3 Comments
Kigali – The Tanzania-based international tribunal hearing the cases of Rwandan genocide suspects urged the central African nation on Friday not to prosecute a U.S. lawyer over a charge of genocide denial. Rwanda’s chief prosecutor Martin Ngoga on Wednesday said American lawyer Peter Erlinder could be summoned within two weeks. Denying the 1994 genocide, during which about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered to death, is a crime in Rwanda.
Roland Amoussouga, spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), said Rwanda would have to respect Erlinder’s court immunity if the charges related to his work at the tribunal.
“Rwanda has the right to go ahead and prosecute Erlinder. However, they have also committed to respect the functional immunity he has at the tribunal,” Amoussouga told Reuters by telephone from the court’s base in Arusha.
“Prosecution can only go on if it is in relation to his private work and not with work related to the ICTR,” Amoussouga said.
Rwanda arrested Erlinder on charges of genocide denial in May when he flew to the country to defend opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who had been arrested over accusations of belonging to a terrorist group and promoting genocide ideology.
Erlinder was released on bail on health grounds a month later although the charges remained. Ngoga said at the time the charges related remarks made in earlier statements and publications but did not cite specific comments.
Ngoga said Rwanda would turn to Interpol if Erlinder failed to respond to an eventual summons.
“He is a lawyer and he knows the consequences of jumping bail,” the chief prosecutor told an ICTR news conference on Wednesday.
Under a 2003 law, persons condemned for denying or grossly minimising genocide, attempting to justify genocide or destroy evidence related to it are liable to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 in prison.
Rwanda last week re-arrested Ingabire who was barred from standing in August’s presidential election which Kagame won by a landslide.
Members of her unregistered United Democratic Forces (UDF) party fear for her health and said she had been visited by a paramedic on Friday. “We call again for a medical parole without any further delay,” UDF said in a statement.
October 23, 2010 No Comments
Kigali – President Kagame said Tuesday that it was not his responsibility to create an opposition – but also lashed out at foreign forces that he accused of trying to establish opposition parties in Rwanda, RNA reports.
“Let me tell you this. Some people think it is their job to create the oppositions in Rwanda – and that is the biggest mistake they are making,” Kagame told journalists before he headed to the National Stadium to launch his election campaign.
“You may create an opposition, but who manages it: will you create it from outside and keep managing it from inside? It will be difficult for you and those you have created,” said Kagame.
“First of all, as an outsider, you have no business creating anything political in another country.”
The President was responding to questions by a Kenyan and Ugandan journalist who had asked whether the parties which are taking part in the presidential polls were the “legitimate opposition”. Critics have branded the three parties competing against the RPF in the polls which started Tuesday, as stooges of the ruling party.
In raised tone, and gesturing in seeming irritation, the President dismissed the use of the description “legitimate opposition” to refer to groups such as the FDU-Inkingi and its leader Victoire Ingabire.
“A legitimate opposition is that which develops by itself through the conditions that exist. Not the opposition you create in your mind or practically…then that is not a legitimate opposition,” said the President, who at some point seemed to be enjoying the questions the foreign journalists were putting to him.
Rights organizations and international media say by charging Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda of PS Imberakuri, government is silencing the real opposition.
The President instead accused Europe and other countries he did not name of being the ones which are delaying the speedy trail of Ingabire, against who, he said government had overwhelming evidence.
The firry politician is facing some three counts including links to the FDLR rebels and Genocide ideology, but the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said in June that countries holding crucial evidence were not coming forth despite formal requests.
Ngoga named Holland, United States, Belgium, Switzerland, DR Congo and Burundi – as the countries where Ingabire networked with the FDLR militias.
July 20, 2010 No Comments
Kigali – The decision to grant bail to Peter Erlinder was made out of concern for his physical and mental health and in no way diminishes the seriousness of the charges against him, Rwanda’s Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga said after the ruling was handed down by the High Court Thursday.
“Bail on health grounds cannot be mistaken as vindication for Mr. Erlinder – it just proves that the justice system he so freely criticizes was willing to show him compassion with respect to his physical and mental wellbeing.
“This will not deter the prosecution as we finalize the case against Mr. Erlinder. He will soon be called to defend his record of genocide denial that insults the people of Rwanda and inflames those who seek to harm us,” Mr. Ngoga said.
On the other hand, Erlinder some family members said they are struggling over whether Erlinder should continue to fight the charges against him in Rwanda.
“Knowing Peter, he’s a pretty honorable guy, and if he thought that was the right thing to do, he would do it,” Scott Erlinder said. “But before any of that happens, the family would really want to talk to him. We have an awful lot of respect for him, but we also love him.”
Erlinder’s wife Usui said that while she’s happy her husband is returning home, she wants his name cleared. “I hope it’s done with Rwanda, but if it’s not, we should still keep fighting against the charges,” she said. “I’m still in a fighting mood.”
June 18, 2010 No Comments