Kagame regime demands Professor Peter Erlinder return to Kigali to stand trial

Introduction by Ann Garrison

The Kagame regime continues on the offensive in the wake of the “U.N. Mapping Report on Human Rights Abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1993-2003,” released on Oct. 1, which documents the Rwandan army’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocidal massacres of civilian Rwandan Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutus in Congo. Kagame denied the accusations, most of all the accusations of genocide, and then responded by arresting Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, leader of Rwanda’s FDU-Inkingi Coalition of parties and the second of three opposition presidential candidates to be jailed since attempting to contest this year’s presidential election against Kagame.

Bernard Ntaganda, founder of Rwanda’s Parti Social-Imberakuri, has been in jail since his arrest on June 24, as he tried to leave his home to protest exclusion from the election, and he is now reported to be in critical condition in a Kigali hospital. Ntaganda and Ingabire’s lawyers, family and friends report that they are being tortured and held in inhumane conditions.

Rwandan exile Umuvugizi newspaper editor Jean Bosco Gasasiras, whose deputy editor, Jean Leonard Rugambage, was gunned down on the streets of Kigali during the run-up to the Aug. 9 presidential polls, has reported a leaked account of the plot to arrest Ingabire, fabricate charges and even slow poison her. Exiled Umuseso Editor Didas Gasana says that Ingabire’s arrest is haunting him day and night but that he doesn’t think Kagame will feel free to execute her. He does, like Gasasiras, fear that she may be “slow poisoned” in prison.

Rwandan Chief Prosecutor Martin Ngoga charges Ingabire once again, as in March, with genocide denial and conspiracy to commit terrorism and, on Oct. 21, Ngoga announced that he wants American law professor and international criminal defense attorney Peter Erlinder back in court to stand trial for genocide denial as well.

Erlinder traveled to Kigali to defend Ingabire in May but was arrested within a week himself, then released on medical grounds, but only after an international outcry, including that of the National Lawyers Guild and bar associations all over the world, at the end of which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered his medical records to authorities in Kigali with a plea for his release.

After the release of the U.N. report on atrocities committed in Congo by the U.S.-backed regimes of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, Erlinder said that no one should expect justice in response in international courts, because “the U.S. controls the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR), the U.S. controls the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the U.S. controls the U.N. Security Council, which establishes and controls the international criminal tribunals.”

Professor Peter Erlinder’s statement in response to the news that Rwanda’s prosecutor demands his return

After having arrested would-be presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire six days ago, Rwandan Chief Prosecutor Martin Ngoga announced that he intends to prosecute her former attorney, U.S. law professor and U.N. Rwanda Tribunal lead defense counsel, Peter Erlinder, for “genocide denial” based on articles written in the U.S. and published on the internet.

by Professor Peter Erlinder, Director, International Humanitarian Law Institute

St. Paul, Oct. 21 – Following my release for medical reasons, the well-publicized myth that the Kagame dictatorship had changed, that misled both me and my former client, Madame Ingabire, has been exposed.

After my release, the banning of all serious political opposition, the beheading of the vice-president of the Green Party, Madame Ingabire’s arrest, the assassination of journalists, the attempted assassination of Mr. Kagame’s former chief of staff who defected to South Africa, the assassination of another ICTR defense counsel and Kagame’s “election” with 93 percent of the vote caused the Obama White House to question the state of democracy in Rwanda on Aug. 13:

“(A) series of disturbing events prior to the election includ(es) the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of a human rights activist, the barring of two opposition parties from taking part in the election, and the arrest of journalists … (S)tability and prosperity will be difficult to sustain without broad political debate and open political participation … Democracy is about more than holding elections.”

On Aug. 28, LeMonde and the New York Times leaked a 600-page report from the files of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights detailing crimes of Kagame’s troops in the Congo between 1993-2003, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are the same sort of crimes Chief ICTR Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte’s 2009 English language memoir says were committed by Kagame’s troops in Rwanda in 1994, but her honesty cost her job in 2003 when she refused to follow U.S. orders NOT to prosecute Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) at the ICTR.

These U.N. documents also confirm the evidence I put in the ICTR record that acquitted my client of “conspiracy and planning to commit genocide” in a February 2009 judgment, for which I have been accused of “genocide denial” and “spreading rumors.” Observing that the ICTR judgment runs counter to the victor’s description on the internet of the how the war developed makes me a “genocide denier” in Rwanda. My “crime” has been to say that, if there was no long-term planning and conspiracy, the victor’s story of the “Rwandan genocide” must be re-examined.

But my prosecution has larger implications as well. If U.N. immunity does not apply to any prosecution of defense counsel by the Kagame government, then all defense counsel and defendants have reason to fear that meaningful representation at the U.N. Tribunal will be impossible, especially since the former chief U.N. prosecutor has confirmed that Kagame and the RPF should be in the dock themselves.

Professor Peter Erlinder is the director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute at the William Mitchell College of Law, 875 Summit Av., St. Paul, Minn. 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 introduction originally appeared on Colored Opinions.