It is confirmed that Law Professor and International Human Rights Lawyer, Peter Erlinder, is free from a Rwandan jail where he has been detained since May 28th. President Kagame’s regime could not stand the pressure coming from lawyers and law institutions across the globe, politicians, human rights organizations, the United Nations, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), advocacy groups, including our own Africa Faith and Justice Network, US Congress and lastly, the cautious but important, pressure from the U.S. State Department.
Accused of genocide denial, Mr. Erlinder was granted bail on medical grounds. However, this does not mean that the charges were dropped. According to the Star Tribune, Rwandan Procecutor, Martin Ngonga said that “He (Erlinder) 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.” However, a “Note Verbale”, reference number ICTR/RO/06/10/175, from the ICTR’s Office of the Registrar to the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat in New York with copy to Rwandan authorities says that in the case of Mr. Erlinder : “ICTR recalls that the Article VI, Section 22, of the convention on Privileges and immunities of the United Nations, to which the republic of Rwanda is a part, provides that: ‘experts (other than officials coming within the scope of Article V) performing mission for the United Nations shall be accorded […] [i]n respect to words spoken or written and acts done by them in course of their performance of their mission, immunity from legal process of every kind. The immunity for legal process shall continue to be accorded notwithstanding that the persons concerned are no longer employed in the mission for the United Nations’”.
The ICTR is certain that the Rwandan government falsely charged Mr. Erlinder of genocide denial based in part on arguments made in defense of his clients at the ICTR. In addition, it is clear that Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is based on the fact that he is one of the legal teams which filed a lawsuit against President Kagame on April 30th in the Western District Federal Court in Oklahoma. He also was in Rwanda to represent in court the opposition leader and August 2010 presidential hopeful, Mrs. Victoire Ingabire, also accused of genocide ideology. This behavior is nothing other than the manifestation of the ongoing intimidation practices by the Rwandan government against any one with different views and a clear sign of a heavy handed leadership in Rwanda.
In the case of Mr. Erlinder, members of Congress, Ms. Betty McCollum and Mr. Keith Ellison introduced on June 8th H. Res. 1426, “Urging the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and President Paul Kagame to immediately release human rights lawyer Professor Peter Erlinder from jail and allow him to return to the United States.” This resolution underscores the fact that in its constitution, the Rwandan government is committed to uphold the rule of law and respect of human rights. Also, it points to increased repression ahead of the presidential elections and lack of freedom of press. Most importantly, H. Res. 1426 points to “ $1,034,000,000 billion in United States taxpayer-funded foreign assistance to Rwanda since year 2000, and an additional $240,200,000 … proposed in the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget”.
With the current political situation in Rwanda, there is no doubt that the U.S. has been financing another African dictatorial regime. During the diplomacy briefing on Sub-Saharan Africa on June 14, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her worries in these terms: “We really don’t want to see Rwanda undermine its own remarkable progress by beginning to move away from a lot of the very positive actions that undergirded its development so effectively.” Due to the arrest of Mr. Peter Erlinder, Paul Kagame has energized the Great Lakes advocacy movement; however, upon Erlinder’s release on medical grounds from the Rwandan prison, we will not be satisfied until the charges are dropped completely.
Click on the links below to learn more about court cases against President Paul Kagame and more on the Rwandan genocide:
Official copy of the lawsuit against President Paul Kagame in the US
French judge Brugriere’s report to ICTR in Tanzania
Spanish Court report about Kagame’s crime
Library on Rwanda documents in French and English