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Defense lawyers condemn assassination of ICTR lawyer Mwaikusa

July 17, 2010

by Ann Garrison

American law professor Peter Erlinder and Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza together at Erlinder’s June 14 bail hearing. She is under house arrest and he is in prison, after traveling to Rwanda to defend her. – Photo: Rwanda News Agency
The Association of Defense Lawyers has condemned the murder of International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) lawyer and University of Dar es Salaam Law Professor Jwani Mwaikusa, who was gunned down outside his home on July 14.

Professor Mwaikusa had recently prevented the transfer of ICTR defendants to Rwanda on “lack of fair trial” grounds and announced the appeal of his client, Yusuf Munyakazi’s July 3 conviction.

They said that the murder was not an isolated incident, that within the past month:

1) a prominent Rwandan opposition journalist, Jean Leonard Rugambage, had been shot to death in front of his home in Kigali, Rwanda;

2) a former Rwandan general survived an apparent assassination attempt in South Africa, where he is seeking asylum;

Cover of the Human Rights Watch publication “Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: A Digest of the Case Law of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,” issued in January 2010.
3) the decapitated body of the Rwandan Green Party vice president was found near his abandoned car near Butare, Rwanda;

4) the Rwanda Green Party’s president has been publicly threatened with assassination;

5) hundreds of Rwanda’s potential opposition supporters have been arrested or disappeared;

6) Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire was arrested on “genocide denial” charges for suggesting that both Tutsi and Hutu were victims during the 1990-94 civil war and genocide, as were her Dutch, U.S. and Rwandan lawyers.

They also said that Professor Mwaikusa’s assassination follows the illegal arrest of other lawyers representing alleged opponents of the Rwandan government and that the Rwandan government continues to refuse to recognize U.N.-granted immunity for ICTR defense lawyers.

ICTR defense lawyer Peter Robinson, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, has notified the court that meaningful defense of ICTR clients is not possible and has asked to withdraw. Other ICTR defense attorneys are considering similar measures.

I spoke to ICTR lawyer and William Mitchell Law Professor Peter Erlinder on the phone from his home in Minneapolis-St. Paul:

Ann Garrison: Who was Professor Mwaikusa?

Peter Erlinder: Professor Mwaikusa was the lawyer for Yusuf Munyakazi, one of the defendant detainees that Rwanda was trying to have transferred from the ICTR to Rwanda. The Rwandan government has been regularly filing documents at the ICTR trying to transfer the cases of the defendant detainees at the ICTR to Rwanda. And the ICTR and the human rights world has said no, that they’re not going to get fair trials there. There was a big legal battle, with Professor Mwaikusa arguing against the transfer, about a year ago and he won.

Democratic Green Party of Rwanda First Vice President Andre Kagwa Rwisereka sat to the left of Party President Frank Habineza at their attempt to convene in Kigali on Oct. 30, 2009, which was broken up by violent saboteurs. – Photo: Democratic Green Party of Rwanda
No one knows for sure whether he was assassinated by Rwandan Patriotic Front operatives, but we do know that the RPF target lawyers who defend people whom they have identified as their enemies, including me, Theogene Muhayeyezu, the lawyer who replaced me as Victoire Ingabire’s lawyer, and there was an earlier ICTR lawyer, a Rwandan who had been living in Mozambique; he was arrested when he came to the ICTR two years ago. He was arrested when he came but eventually released and has since died, apparently of natural causes.

But the situation now is that the lawyers at the ICTR have legitimate reason to be fearful of being in Africa – anywhere in Africa, especially East Africa.

Ann Garrison: Because they might be arrested, maybe arrested and extradited or assassinated?

Peter Erlinder: Professor Mwaikusa’s assassination in Tanzania after my arrest in Rwanda, then the arrest of Ingabire’s Rwandan lawyer and a previous arrest of a Rwandan lawyer at the Tribunal – it’s really creating a problem for defense lawyers trying to continue to do their work at the ICTR and it’s probably going to have to result in the ICTR stopping. It’s probably at that point now. I think that’s likely to happen in the next four or five days. Probably by Monday we’ll know a lot more.

Ann Garrison: And what does that mean?

Peter Erlinder: It means that the Security Council Tribunal is not functioning. It means that the legitimacy of the prosecution of the guys who lost the war [Rwandan Civil War, 1990-1994] is diminishing. It means that the legitimacy of the guys who won the war is diminishing.

Umuvugizi journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage was buried after a memorial service in Kigali on Saturday, June 26. Rugambage had been gunned down outside his home in Kigali on June 24. – Photo courtesy Umuvugizi Editor Jean Bosco Gasasira
And it’s part of what could conceivably mean the increasing isolation of the Kagame regime, because it’s going to be very difficult for the judges to tell the lawyers that they have to go forward in a situation like this. And if the lawyers can’t go forward, there can’t be a Tribunal; and if there can’t be a Tribunal, the whole enterprise begins to suffer and then the attention goes back to Rwanda.

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

KPFA News for Sunday, July 18

4 thoughts on “Defense lawyers condemn assassination of ICTR lawyer Mwaikusa

  1. eric

    Oh Please
    This is gating very ugly and personal! What kind of journalism is this one? Oh I Think tomorrow you will write that Berlusconi was biten by RPF in Italy, Ugandan General Kazini was killed by RPF in Kampala Luck Dube was Killed by RPF in Johannesburg, Eugene Tereblanche was assassinated by RPF in Pretoria and so many on your fake list??????????????? What A journalism of activism, hatred and negative propaganda.
    Ms Ann Garrison! Whoever is paying you to write such bursheet is making you look very ridiculous and unprofessional in the eye of the very many Rwandan and international Honest citizen who knows the truth about Rwanda, because they leave they every day life there unless you who seat in the other side of the sea and write whatever can earn you the bloody bread even if it is helping to destroy a country that is recovering from the world worst calamity. What did you do to make it recover? Oh the media you talked however stopped what? Lost how relatives, endured which kind of trauma? Is that Rwanda, your bosses , and those vultures of lawyers wish to see? Good luck because you need one. go to and see the real image of Rwanda that you love to tarnish.

  2. therisingcontinent

    Mr Eric, if this is your real name, I assume you find a problem when RPF is uncovered in its criminal activities. Coming out insulting any one who points to the evidence of your government's crimes does not erase them from being what they are. Maybe you are against this journalist because she is a foreigner and you want to conceal the truth and let everybody believes in the lies RPF spread around. But this has come to an end. Even Paul Kagame himself is acknowledging that nobody is swallowing his lies (truth). The reason is because RPF has so much lived lieing that even when it will be telling the truth, nobody will believe it.

    Good luck with your lies about the real Rwanda. The real Rwanda is discriminated against in its every aspect of life. It lives in prisons, has been deprived of its properties, does not access employment or education, is absent from military hierarchy which is dominated by your tribe I presume. The real Rwanda Kagame has denied it a future. That's the real Rwanda, which once uncovered makes you feel insulted because you are in denial of its existence though it is in front of you to see.


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