Category Archives: State Department

The Rwandan Government May be Planning an Assassination of Peter Erlinder

This morning, reports from the Rwandan government mouthpieces claimed conflicting stories about professor Peter Erlinder’s health. Peter Erlinder is the American Law professor held in a Rwandan jail since May 28 under the accusation of Genocide Ideology; an ill defined law applicable to anyone who disagrees with the Rwandan government.  The police spokesman Mr. Eric Kayiranga claimed that Erlinder had attempted suicide by swallowing 45 to 50 prescription pills. The  New Times editor Edmond Kagire reported that Erlinder was faking his illness.

The Rwandan government under Paul Kagame has a history of assassinating opponents, dissidents, as well as regular Rwandan citizens using poison. Some prisoners have been fed broken glass causing them to die of illness resulting from consuming such. Former government officials such as Seth Sendashonga and Theoneste Lizinde have been killed by death squads outside of Rwanda. Consider that Rwanda’s general prosecutor Martin Ngoga refuted the reports of  suicide.  Martin Ngoga is not alone as Erlinder’s family, colleagues, and friends have all rejected the notion that he would commit suicide. They have all testified to his strength of character and mental toughness. Many Rwandan nationals especially on social networking sites such as facebook have raised the suspicion that the reports this morning are a prelude to an assassination by the Rwandan government. Notorious for various killing methods, Paul Kagame’s government is responsible for the death of 5 million innocent Congolese citizens who have been killed since Rwanda’s invasion of Congo in 1996.

It appears the US embassy as well as the larger US government have left Erlinder to the lions in Rwanda hungry for his blood. Silence on the part of the US State Department has been deadly. It seems as though the US government is happy to sit by and allow their citizen to rot in a prison where no developed country has ever extradited an individuals, including those suspected of genocide. The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, England, France as well as other countries have all declined to extradite anyone to Rwanda, citing an unfair judicial system. Yet, no word has been heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or anyone in the Obama administration.

Erlinder traveled to Rwanda on May 23 to represent opposition leader Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza who has been accused of Genocide Ideology as well.  Mrs. Ingabire Umuhoza plans to run in the upcoming Rwandan Presidential election, provided the Rwandan government finally allows her to run.  However, her efforts as well as other government opponents’ effors to register for election have been blocked at every turn by the Rwandan government. Dictator Paul Kagame is guaranteed to win an uncontested election this August.

Advocates Demand Rwanda’s Immediate Release of U.S. Attorney Erlinder

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

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

ICTR ADAD Demands Release of Peter Erlinder

ADAD
Press Release
28 May 2010

According to available information, Professor Peter Erlinder, a Defence attorney at the ICTR, and Professor of Law at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States, was arrested on 28 May in Kigali on the charge of “denying genocide” (genocidal ideology).

Professor Erlinder is in Kigali this week, acting on behalf of his client, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who is trying to oppose President Kagame in the upcoming August presidential elections, and who has also been charged with “denying genocide.”

Professor Erlinder is Lead Counsel for Major Aloys Ntabakuze in the “Military I” case at the ICTR. He is also one of the organizers of the successful ICTR Defence Conference, held in Brussels, Belgium last weekend.

He is the current President of the ADAD, the ICTR Defense Counsel organization.

We urge all individuals and organizations to urgently contact the Rwandan government, the U.S. Government and others to:

a) Demand the immediate release of Professor Peter Erlinder;

b) Demand Professor Erlinder’s immediate access to counsel;

c) Urge the Rwandan government to drop these fabricated and baseless charges against Professor Erlinder.

Signed: Ad Hoc Organizing Committee for Brussels Conference

Statement from President and Dean Eric S. Janus on Prof. Peter Erlinder’s arrest in Rwanda

On Friday, May 28, we were notified that Professor Peter Erlinder was arrested in Rwanda. At this time, he has not been charged with any crime. Our primary concern is for Prof. Erlinder’s safety and we hope the situation is resolved both fairly and promptly.

William Mitchell is working with the United States Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to monitor the situation and provide any assistance possible. In addition, we are in contact with representatives from the offices of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Betty McCollum, and Rep. Keith Ellison to make them aware of the situation and provide information about Prof. Erlinder’s work in Rwanda.

William Mitchell has a 110-year history of legal education that is engaged with the legal profession, and we support and encourage the legal pursuits of our faculty beyond the college. Prof. Erlinder is in Rwanda to represent Victoire Ingabire, an opposition candidate for President of Rwanda who was arrested over accusations of promoting genocide ideology. In traveling to Rwanda, Prof. Erlinder exemplifies the great tradition of lawyers who take on the representation of unpopular clients and causes. That Prof. Erlinder did so at great personal risk demonstrates the strength of his commitment to justice and due process. We support his commitment to justice, the rule of law, and public service, which are the core of the lawyer’s function in society and values Prof. Erlinder works to instill in the students he teaches at William Mitchell.

We look forward to Prof. Erlinder’s return to the college and will continue to monitor his situation and work with the United Nations and the United States government until the issue is resolved.

National Lawyers Guild Demands Immediate Release of Attorney Peter Erlinder Vigorous Legal Advocate Arrested in Rwanda

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2010
1:07 PM

CONTACT: National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
David Gespass, 205-566-2530

Heidi Boghosian, 917-239-4999

NEW YORK – May 28 – The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) demands the immediate release of its former president, Professor Peter Erlinder, whom Rwandan Police arrested early today on charges of “genocide ideology.” He had traveled to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, on May 23, to join the defense team of Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Erlinder is reportedly being interrogated at the Rwandan Police Force’s Kacyiru headquarters.

“Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of Umuhoza. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes and 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 his membership and his courageous advocacy,” said David Gespass, the Guild’s president.

Erlinder traveled to Kigali after attending the Second International Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Conference in Brussels. Since his arrival in Kigali, the state-sponsored Rwandan media has been highly critical of Erlinder.

The Rwandan Parliament adopted the “Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology” (Genocide Ideology Law), on July 23, 2008. It defines genocide ideology broadly, requires no link to any genocidal act, and can be used to include a wide range of legitimate forms of expression, prohibiting speech protected by international conventions such as the Genocide Convention of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966.

Sarah Erlinder, Arizona attorney and NLG member said, “My father has made a career defending unpopular people and unpopular speech-and is now being held because of his representation of unpopular clients and analysis of an historical narrative that the Kagame regime considers inconvenient. We can help defend his rights now by drawing U.S. government and media attention to his situation and holding the Rwandan government accountable for his well-being.”

Before leaving for Brussels and then Kigali, Professor Erlinder notified the U.S. State Department, his Minnesota Congressional Representative Betty McCullom, Representative Keith Ellison, and Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Professor Erlinder is a professor of law at the William Mitchell College of Law. He is a frequent litigator and consultant, often pro bono, in cases involving the death penalty, civil rights, claims of government and police misconduct, and criminal defense of political activists. He is also a frequent news commentator. Erlinder was president of the National Lawyers Guild from 1993-1997, and is a current board member of the NLG Foundation. He has been a defense attorney at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since 2003.

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The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members–lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees–the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

Rwanda Arrests American Lawyer For Representing A Rwandan Arrested by Kagame

On May 28, 2010, Rwandan security forces arrested American Lawyer Peter Erlinder. Mr. Erlinder is a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota. He is also a former president for the National Lawyer’s Guild. The Rwandan government led by dictator Paul Kagame arrested Erlinder on charges of “Genocide Denial”. Amazingly enough, this is a crime that was committed outside of Rwanda. Apparently, Rwanda has jurisdiction over the whole world. It gets even better. The Rwandan government’s charges are based on professor Erlinder’s questioning the official Rwandan government’s narative on the genocide of 1994 while defending his clients at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Basically, professor Erlinder’s crime was defending his clients.

Unsurprisingly, Erlinder traveled to Rwanda to defend a female opposition leader Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, an aspiring presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in August.  Mr. Ingabire has been physically attacked by president Kagame’s security operatives. She has been charged among other things with the same charges levied against her lawyer. For those who are familiar with Rwanda and Kagame’s modus operandi, it is not surprising that these individuals who hold differing views from his government have been arrested. Critical journalists have been arrested, beaten, forced to flee, deported and in some cases killed.  Local independent media has been shut down until after the election. In recent months, top government officials have been forced to flee, army generals arrested, and a number of media personalities are on the run.

In addition, the Rwandan government has been attempting to force a million refugees from Uganda back to Rwanda. This also is not unusual. Recently, dictator Paul Kagame admitted to killing refugees and forcing others back into the country. The Rwandan president confirmed an allegation that has been long dismissed about his genocide of Rwanda refugees in the Congo. Amazingly, Rwanda is still one of the largest recipients of aid from the US government.

The US embassy in Kigali said that they were not doing anything about Mr. Erlinder’s case as he is liable to Rwandan law. Give me a break. When have Americans become liable to laws of tyrants and systems similar to North Korea? Bill Clinton should be taking a trip to Rwanda as soon as possible to seek the release of professor Erlinder. The US government should also withhold aid from Rwanda for not only its abuses of human rights in Rwanda, but also for its role in the killing of over Five million (5 000 000) innocent Congolese over the last fourteen years as well as the systematic stealing of Congo’s resources. The Obama administration would do well to enforce its laws and withhold taxpayer’s money from going to this despotic government that is using our taxes to arrest our fellow citizens. For a start, the embassy as well as the State Department should get engaged and demand the release of professor Erlinder’s immediate release.

Peace in Congo Requires More Than Just Pictures of Kabila and Kagame Together

From MJPC by Amede Kyubwa

As President Obama himself likes to quote, the insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Sadly that is exactly what has been happening in Congo for more than 10 years….

It is impossible not to recognize that the growing rapprochement between the Congo and Rwanda, is a signal that the Congo is likely to achieve some form of stability under the Obama Admnistration.  It seems President Obama is very firm in the expectations of wanting to see both President Kagame and Kabila working together for the sake of peace in the Great Lakes. While it’s too early to say for sure whether this will bring the kind of stability needed to end the violence and impunity, often described by many human rights organizations as terribly systematic and endless, in Eastern Congo, it is clear that none of these two heads of state can afford to defy the United States at this time.

On one side, without implying any causal, president Kabila knows what happened to all previous presidents of Congo who attempted to resist the demands of Washington. They all failed and lost their lives in tragic circumstances. Kabila must be intelligent enough not to repeat this. He has to do what his father failed to do when it comes to dealing with the USA. Do what they ask you to do and seek to tactically negociate later!!!. He is also a young man who probably understands quite well how much president Kagame was able benefit in the past when the congolese authorities used some fatal tactics of resisting to the prescriptions from Washington

On the other side, Kagame knows that it would be his end if the USA is not behind him. He has been mostly untouchable in the region because of the unyielding support he enjoys from the most powerful country on earth,(USA) which are believed to have supported the rebellion that led him to power via Uganda in the 1990s. He does not enjoy this kind of wide support in the Europe where even some countries have tried to arrest members of his cabinet for allegedly being behind the shooting down of late Habyarimana’s plane. For the moment, he has been safe because he has the USA on his side. By all accounts, President Kagame can’t afford the luxury of shooting himself in the foot by opposing the prescriptions of the Obama Admnistration. In similar way, this would benefit President Kabila as this could make President Kagame look like enemy of peace in the Great Lakes.

While the current events in Congo must be applauded by all, any peace effort between Rwanda and Congo which excludes finding alternative solutions to the problems of FDLR would not be a lasting one. The need for changes in the strategies on how to effectively force the FDLR to return to Rwanda is imperative simply because the current strategies of machine guns have failed to make this happen for more than a decade now.

In watching the celebrations on the streets in North Kivu when Kagame arrived in Goma over the weekend to meet with Kabila would make one ask if the Congolese have misdiagnosed the security problem in their country. The challenging relationships between the two presidents have never been the cause of the problem. Why? The answer is quite simple; because the two capitals have worked together in past and failed to force FDLR to leave Congo with their machine-guns.  One should even be reminded that Rwanda occupied that part of the Congo for more than year, reportedly for the same reasons and failed to do this with machine-guns. Maybe this time the Obama Administration will encourage Kagame to find alternative solutions on how to force the FDLR to return to Rwanda without relying on the use of machine guns.

As  President Obama himself likes to quote, the insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Sadly that is exactly what has been happening in Congo for more than 10 years with regards to the FDLR.  The consequences of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results have been very disastrous and catastrophic for the Congolese people. In the last decade more than 5 million have died in Congo mostly women and children and almost half a million women and children have been raped and tortured because of the same approach of doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.  Machine guns have been the biggest failure in Congo and whole region at large.

Whatever happens in Congo after the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, let’s hope that this time the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results will not be repeated again in Congo with the Obama Administration.

Amédé KYUBWA, MA, MPA, is the Executive Director of MJPC, a nonprofit organization that promotes peace and justice in the DRC through actions aimed at fighting against impunity, sexual violence and other serious violations of human rights in DRC. The MJPC also advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts (non-violent approach to conflict)