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Rwanda arrests Victoire Ingabire’s American lawyer, Peter Erlinder, in Kigali

May 28, 2010

by Ann Garrison

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is the leading presidential candidate challenging Rwandan President Paul Kagame – if he allows her to run.
Rwandan police have arrested Peter Erlinder, the American lawyer who traveled to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, on Monday, May 23, to join the defense team of Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. (Scroll down to watch the video interview recorded by Olivier Nyirubugara on May 23 at the end of this post.)

Ingabire was released after being summoned to a Rwandan police station yesterday, much to the relief of her supporters, but this morning both she and the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported that Erlinder had been arrested and charged with “genocide ideology,” a crime unique to Rwanda which Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and even the U.S. State Department have denounced as a tool of political repression.

Erlinder, a prominent critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime and of the received history of the Rwanda Genocide, had traveled to Kigali after attending the Second International Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Conference in Brussels.

State run Rwandan media have attacked Erlinder since his arrival and the Rwandan News Agency reports that he is now in custody and being interrogated at the Rwandan Police Force’s Kacyiru headquarters.

The RNA also reports that the American embassy in Kigali has taken up the matter, but it is not yet clear in what form. The embassy is located just meters away from the police headquarters.

Before leaving for Brussels and then Kigali, Erlinder notified the U.S. State Department, his Minnesota Congressional Rep. Betty McCollum and his friend in the neighboring district, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.

Erlinder bases his critique of the Kagame regime and the received history of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide on the evidence collected in his Rwanda Documents Project.

San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Digital Journal, Examiner.com, OpEdNews, Global Research, Colored Opinions and her blog, Plutocracy Now. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. This story originally appeared in Digital Journal.

Call script and list of people to call to get Professor Erlinder released from Kigali jail

by Kambale Musavuli

Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo, breaks the silence at the Congo in Harlem Film Festival. His T-shirt, designed by Congolese artist Shako Oteka, depicts assassinated Congolese President Patrice Lumumba. – Photo: Shako Oteka
This is a call script to use – or compose your own – when calling in support of Professor Erlinder’s release from jail in Kigali:

Hello, __________________

My name is __________________.

I am calling as a concerned [citizen/student/constituent] to inform you that an American lawyer, Professor Peter Erlinder, was arrested in Rwanda while there to defend a pro-democracy opposition leader currently on trial. In recent months, opposition party candidates have been intimidated, physically attacked and arrested. Some were denied proper due process, and Professor Peter Erlinder was there to aid Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in this regard.

I am calling therefore to ask that you take the necessary steps to secure his immediate release and demand that Rwanda allow him to continue his human rights work. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reported on Rwanda’s ongoing gross disregard for human rights. Obstructing free and fair trials for the accused as in this case is a prime example such violations.

The arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder is a tragic occurrence in the ongoing struggle for justice, human rights and democracy in Rwanda. Therefore I am asking that you do all you can to help restore some semblance of justice and human rights by asking for the release of Professor Peter Erlinder, which will allow him to continue his human rights work.

Thank you.

Please contact these decision makers

State Department Bureau of African Affairs, (202) 647-4440, fax (202) 647-6301

Johnny Carson, Africa Foreign Relations Committee, (202) 647-2530, fax (202) 647-0838

Stephen J. Rapp, war crimes ambassador, (202) 647-6051, fax (202) 736-4495

State Department’s Rwandan Desk Officer Marlaina Casey, (202) 647-3138

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice – Accredited Journalists Line (212) 415-4050, Opinion and Comment Line (212) 415-4062, fax (212) 415-4053

Rwanda Mission to the U.N. in USA (212) 679-9010 or (212) 679-9023, fax (212) 679-9133

Rwanda Embassy, (202) 232-2882

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, New York, NY 10017 USA, (212) 963-5012, fax (212) 963-7055, ecu@un.org

On Capitol Hill

Sen. Al Franken, (202) 224-5641

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (202) 224-3244

Peter Erlinder’s Congressional Rep. Betty McCollum, (202) 225-6631

Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota 5th, (202) 224-4755 or his aide, Zahir Jan Mohamed, zahir@mail.house.gov

Members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:

  • Rep. Donald Payne, Chair, (202) 225-3436
  • Rep. Chris Smith, Ranking Member, (202)-225-3765
  • Rep. Ed Royce, (202) 225-4111

Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota 6th, (202) 225-2331

Rep. John Kline, Minnesota 2nd, (202) 225-2271

Rep. James L. Oberstar, Minnesota 8th, (202) 225-6211

Rep. Erik Paulsen, Minnesota 3rd, (202) 225-2871

Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota 7th, (202) 225-2165

Rep. Timothy J. Walz, Minnesota 1st, (202) 225-2472

U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Public Affairs Section, 2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie (Kacyiru District), P.O. Box 28, Kigali, Rwanda, (250) 596-400, Ext. 2553, fax; (250) 596-771 or 596-591, KigaliEmbassy@state.gov

Human rights organizations

secretary-general@commonwealth.int

info@humanrightsinitiative.org

chri_info@yahoo.com.au

chri@sas.co.uk

amnesty@amnesty.dk

amnesty@amnesty.fr

amnesty@amnesty.nl

amnestyalgeria@hotmail.com

info@amnesty.at

info@amnesty.ca

rwanda@amnesty.nl

amnesty@aivl.be

webmestre@amnesty.fr

info@amnesty.de

sct@amnesty.org.uk

afjn@ajfn.org

hrwnyc@hrw.org

lindek@hrw.org

berlin@hrw.org

hrwbe@hrw.org

hrwgva@hrw.org

hrwuk@hrw.org

paris@hrw.org

hrwlasb@hrw.org

hrwsf@hrw.org

toronto@hrw.org

hrwdc@hrw.org

secretariat@eurac-network.org

info@hrrfoundation.org

Press

info@demorgen.be

paris@lemonde.fr

cbrooks@dailyherald.com

worldnewsplan@bbc.co.uk

christophe.deroubaix@humanite.presse.fr

cmi-france-paris-contact@lists.indymedia.org

etranger@liberation.fr

direction-redaction@figaro.fr

forum@lexpress.fr

afp@afpemv1.com

info@hirondelle.org

news@eux.tv

contact@africatime.com

info@worldvision.de

info@hbg.dpa.de

nairobi.newsroom@reuters.com

Comments@csmonitor.com

lepotentiel@lepotientiel.com

For anyone not familiar with Prof Erlinder, he is amongst the three lawyers taking Kagame to court here for the crimes he has committed in the region as well as the theft of Congo’s minerals.

For an official copy of the case – Kagame is being sued on eight counts; Count 6 is for looting Congo’s minerals – visit http://www.kambale.com/pdf/kagame_lawsuit_april29th_2010.pdf.

Kambale Musavuli is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. He can be reached at Kambale@friendsofthecongo.org.

Lawyer ventures into Kigali to defend Ingabire from olny.nl on Vimeo.

Olivier Nyirubugara (23 May 2010) – Professor Peter Erlinder flew to Kigali last Saturday 22 May to meet Ms Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader currently under arrest on charges of denying the genocide against the Tutsi and collaborating with terrorist groups.

Ingabire returned home earlier this year after 16 years of exile in the Netherlands. She was then hoping to register her party, the United Democratic Forces and to run for presidency in coming August. All seems to be turning in a nightmare for her as her passport, computer and mobile phone were seized.

I met Professor Erlinder in Brussels a few hours before his flight to Kigali. He was attending a conference on the legacy and lessons from the UN Tribunal for Rwanda. The mission will certainly be difficult as local pro-government media have portrayed him as a genocide ‘minimizer’. In this interview, Professor Erlinder gives his point of view on the road ahead.

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4 thoughts on “Rwanda arrests Victoire Ingabire’s American lawyer, Peter Erlinder, in Kigali

  1. Yvan Ntwari

    How convenient!

    Miss Garrison wasn't this the point of his trip anyway? If you ask me, I think he is celebrating the gullibility of the Rwandan government in his jail cell. Peter Erlinder was most definitely hoping he would get arrested when he arrived in Rwanda, if only to draw more attention to his relentless cause against the RPF government and fan the flames of his legal and political career. I would not be surprised if he drafted these press releases himself before leaving the US.

    Well, I wish to congratulate him on his excellent publicity stunt, there is no better way to draw the world's attention to a cause than to get a US citizen arrested – finally his hard work is going to gain recognition and if it had never reached the highest offices in the land, it finally will.

    Kagame and the Rwandan government would be really stupid to act ignorant of the repercussions of this arrest. It is going to be an interesting legal battle to watch, but instead of sending letters to human rights groups urging Erlinder's release, we should send him letters of congratulation on the excellent PR move that will spur his career to greater heights.

    Reply
  2. Edmund

    Stupid Erlinder, no one in Rwanda cares whether he is in detention or not. He deserves it!!

    He would have done good staying wherever he was but by stepping on the Rwandan soil, he called for his demise. His going to get some good years inside,the likes of Ann Garrison will make noise and in a short time the noise will subside and he will still be in.

    Next time no Western hoodlum will mess with us cos we have got the power and the means to deal with anyone who undermines us as a people. Erlinder should be a lesson to many out there who underestimate us and our laws.

    To you Ann, your patronising attitude should not let you trespass into Rwanda one day cos you will live to regret why you made that decision.

    I hope you now understand that things have since changed.For Erlinder to have done what he was doing for years—defending gencoidaires and embarrassing our President on Official visits, it not because we were so incapacitated or weak not to act.

    We waited for that opportune moment and it came, he stupidly -yes stupidly got on the plane and came to Rwanda. He presented himself,most probably because he thought he was untouchable—-but he isn’t.

    Unless otherwise, he will be, if not for some good time and then he will learn a lesson. Ann, am not scaring you, but i want to let you know that do what you do wherever you are but never dare to step in Rwanda.

    I hope your friend has become your saviour.

    Reply

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