FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
David Gespass, National Lawyers Guild; 205 566-2530
Gena Berglund. International Humanitarian Law Institute of Minnesota; 651 208-7964
Emira Woods, Institute for Policy Studies; 301 523-2979
International Human Rights Advocates join Erlinder family to condemn Rwanda’s arrest of U.S. Attorney Peter Erlinder and demand his immediate release.
Saturday, May 29, 2010 (Washington, DC) –Professor Erlinder, a faculty member at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States and president of the Association des Avocats de la Defense (ADAD), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association, was arrested by the government of Rwanda under the leadership of president Paul Kagame. Peter Erlinder has been arrested in the course of his representation of Rwanda’s opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire.
Erlinder’s arrest was politically motivated and seeks to punish him for fulfilling his responsibilities as a lawyer, to be a vigorous and conscientious advocate for his clients. The Rwandan government and President Kagame must allow fair and public trials. Erlinder’s advocacy is in the finest tradition of the legal profession and every individual and government committed to the rule of law, including the authorities in Rwanda, should applaud his dedication to human rights and international law.
As international human rights activists, we join the Erlinder family to call on the United States government, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world to prevail upon Rwanda to release Erlinder immediately. The U.S. has had a special relationship with Rwanda which remains one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in Africa. Given the U.S. government’s expressed commitment to democracy and the rule of law, it is critical that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress uphold these values in Rwanda and demand the immediate release of Peter Erlinder, an advocate of justice.
“Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of his clients. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for representing defendants it dislikes. A government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted. The entire National Lawyers Guild is honored by Erlinder’s membership, his leadership as past president and his courageous advocacy.” said David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild.
“The offense Peter is charged with is not based on facts, but on the suppression of free speech in his representation of clients, which undermines the rule of law. His family knows he stands with people who are oppressed by those in power and he encourages people to stand up for justice.” Masako Usui, wife of Peter Erlinder.
“The real issue here seems to be whether the U.S. and the world will stand by and allow my father to be detained and prosecuted for doing his job, as an attorney and advocate for his clients. After a career of defense of others, he needs our help now demanding his immediate release and dismissal of all charges.” said Sarah Erlinder, daughter of Peter Erlinder.
“The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) is outraged at the arrest of Peter Erlinder in Rwanda. This arrest violates the rights and privileges of lawyers in discharging their professional responsibilities, constitutes a willful obstruction of the judicial process and is in gross violation of the rights of defense of an accused person,” said Jeanne Mirer, President, International Association of Democratic Lawyers