The Rwandan government’s latest arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder is one of the many attempts to silence the voices calling for justice and democracy in Rwanda. Peter Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN., was President of the National Lawyers Guild, and is President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandan (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association. Mr. Erlinder was arrested on May 28 in Kigali where he traveled to represent in Rwandan court Mrs. Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader who has been under house arrest for a while and is charged with genocide ideology and association with a terrorist group. Mr. Erlinder’s arrest was predictable. Earlier this year, in the article, The Rwanda Hit List: Revisionism, Denial, and the Genocide Conspiracy , Keith Harmon Snow, an investigative journalist, made public President Paul Kagame’s list of people and organizations to be fought urgently. It contains the following names: “Robin Philpot5; C. Peter Erlinder; Keith Harmon Snow; Jordi Palou-Loverdos; Peter Verlinden; Pierre Péan; Charles Onana; Filip Reyntjens; Luc de Temmerman.”
Mr. Erlinder had expressed disappointment in the approach to justice of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which was supposed to bring to justice all parties involved in the Rwandan genocide. However, despite overwhelming evidence and to the surprise of many lawyers, the ICTR stopped short of investigating crimes perpetrated by Kagame and his army, the RPF.. ICTR Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte was fired because she indicated that she was going to prosecute all sides responsible for the Rwandan tragedy. Mr. Erlinder puts it in these terms: “Ever since former ICTR Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and ICTR Chief Investigative Prosecutor Michael Hourigan went public in 2007-2008 exposing US-UK manipulations to grant de facto impunity to current Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his henchmen, between 1997 and the present, convictions of the vanquished in the Rwanda war are a given.”
Mr. Erlinder is paying for taking on some of the most challenging legal cases involving President Kagame’s political adversaries. Outside of the ICTR and defending Mrs. Ingabire, Mr. Erlinder is one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit against President Paul Kagame filed in the Oklahoma on April 30th, 2010. The plaintiffs are the wives of Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira who were in the plane that was shot down on April 6, 1994, the day the genocide started.
Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) believes that the arrest of Prof. Peter Erlinder is a reminder of the ignored and ongoing human rights and human dignity violations and blockage of all parties to the democratic process in Rwanda. Also, the contradictory reports from the Rwandan government saying that Mr. Erlinder faked illness on one hand and tried to commit suicide because of his 20 year history of depression on the other is very concerning and calls for more vigilance. Also, there is the fear that poison is well known to be one of the soft weapons that the Rwandan regime uses to silence critics and opponents.
The U.S government is fully aware of Mr.Erlinder’s detention, but has not come out strongly against it as they have done before in cases of other Americans held by foreign governments. The silence is rooted in U.S-Rwanda alliance. According to Nii Akuetteh, “In Washington’s current relations with Mr. Kagame, we are seeing the replay of a tired old movie. Since 1960, Africa’s year of independence, each and every U.S. administration has praised, financed and kept in power its own set of brutal African strongmen that, in its secret files, has labeled “friendly tyrants.”
We encourage AFJN members and everyone to call your representatives in Congress and urge them to call the US State Department to ask the Rwandan government to drop all charges against Mr. Erlinder and set him free. You are also encouraged also to call the following offices with the same message.
State Department Bureau of African affairs: 202-647-4440
U.S under Sec. of State for Africa, Ambassador Johnny Carson: 202-647-2530
Stephen J. Rapp war crimes ambassador: 202-647-6051
State Department’s Rwandan Desk Officer ; Marlaina Casey : 202-647-3138
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York: 212-963-5012 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s office: (202) 224-5641
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar phone: 202-224-3244
Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota 5th, 202-224-4755.
Bachmann, Michele, Minnesota, 6th 202-225-2331
Kline, John, Minnesota, 2nd (202) 225-2271
McCollum, Betty, Minnesota, 4th (202) 225-6631
Oberstar, James L., Minnesota, 8th (202) 225-6211
Paulsen, Erik, Minnesota, 3rd: (202) 225-2871
Peterson, Collin C., Minnesota, 7th (202) 225-2165
Walz, Timothy J., Minnesota, 1st (202) 225-2472
Click on the links below to learn more about court cases against President Paul Kagame and more on the Rwandan genocide: