International Humanitarian Law Institute News Advisory
St. Paul, MN – April 27 — A 4-hour ICTR Appeal Chamber hearing will complete the 8-year case against Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze, who was acquitted of conspiracy to commit genocide and all incidents but four, that the Prosecutor admits he was not told about. His case was separated from former co-defendents Bagosora and Nsengiyumva on March 31.
Ntabakuze’s Lead Counsel, Prof. Peter Erlinder, was sanctioned by the Chamber of April 21 after it had received: (1) medical verification that, after March 15, Erlinder was experiencing acute medical symptoms related to his detention in Rwanda preventing his travel to Arusha; (2) Erlinder’s request to complete the 4-hour hearing by video or at the Hague, as is common at the ICTR; or, (3) to permit Co-counsel, who had been ill, to argue in Arusha in June.
Rwanda’s RPF government imprisoned Erlinder in May 2010 for writing articles critical of the RPF, based on ICTR evidence, threatening him with life in prison. He was released for medical reasons in June after personal appeals by Hillary Clinton and an international campaign. In October 2010, “dead or alive” orders for Erlinder’s return to Rwanda went out from Rwanda’s President Kagame; Erlinder has been threatened with INTERPOL arrest continuously; and threatened at U.S. speaking engagements by Rwandan Ambassadors and agents in February 2011.
In December 2010, Erlinder had requested the Chamber suspend proceedings against Ntbabakuze in light of: conflict-of-interest created by Rwandan threats against defense counsel; the 600-pp UN Oct. 2010 report of RPF crimes in the Congo 1993-2003; and, ICTR Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte’s revelations of Kagame’s culpability for the genocide, all of which confirmed that the RPF had committed unprosecuted mass crimes within the ICTR jurisdiction.
The ICTR offered no security in Arusha. Rwanda no assurances it would respect UN immunity. When the Chamber rejected appearance by video request on March 15, symptoms returned. The Chamber was informed on March 25, 2011 that Erlinder had suffered a relapse of acute medical symptoms arising from his detention and the pressure of the impending risk to his life. Prior to March 31, Prof. Erlinder: (1) requested to appear by video for the 4-hours; (2) requested a substitute co-counsel not facing threat; and, (3) on March 31, Ntabakuze waived the presence of Counsel, and was prepared to proceed pro se. All of which are in public documents and no delay was requested.
According to Prof. Erlinder, imposing sanctions in most jurisdictions takes place only after notice and a hearing, based on facts produced before the court. The Appeal Chamber has decided on another method, for its own reasons, but it is not grounded in simple fairness.
But, by sanctioning me, the Appeal Chamber has revealed more about the quality of fairness before the Tribunal than my conduct as counsel. History will judge whether a wholly one-sided Tribunal, complicit in covering up massive RPF crimes that are being exposed as we speak, or my role in exposing that Tribunal for what it is, actually reflects the “highest standards of the profession.”
I believe that history, and my profession, will absolve me, not the ICTR or the Appeal Chamber. With the evidence now before it, the Appeal Chamber has reason to be ashamed, not me.
Read also The New York Times: U.S. Lawyer Is Barred From Rwanda Tribunal Work