by Ann Garrison
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 email@example.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
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.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, email@example.com
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
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.
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.