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American Lawyer Peter Erlinder not accredited to defend Ingabire in Rwandan courts

Peter Erlinder

Peter Erlinder: “How I am treated will tell us a lot about the nature of the Rwandan government…”

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.

Rwanda: “How I am treated will tell us a lot about the nature of the Rwandan government…”, Peter Erlinder

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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.

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May 28, 2010   8 Comments

Rwanda: American embassy declines comment on arrest of Ingabire’s American lawyer Peter Erlinder

Peter Erlinder

Peter Erlinder

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.

Source: ARI-RNA.

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May 28, 2010   2 Comments

Rwanda: American lawyer Peter Erlinder arrested by Police over genocide negation

Kigali: Prof. Peter Erlinder, the American lawyer to opposition politician Ingabire Victoire has been arrested after a week in the country – over accusations related to negating the Tutsi Genocide, RNA can exclusively reveal.

Prof Erlinder arrived in the country on Sunday but has been under fire in the media from several sections including Genocide survivors on alleged denial of the mass slaughter. Sources have just confirmed to RNA that the controversial attorney is in police custody at the Force’s Kacyiru headquarters.

RNA has also established that the American embassy in Kigali has taken up the matter, but it is not yet clear in what form. The embassy is located just meters away from the Police Headquarters.

Sources also say he is being interrogated and will be handed to the prosecution department after the dossier is complete. It not yet clear when.

Source: ARI-RNA

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May 28, 2010   1 Comment