Rwanda Arrests Opposition Leader's American Lawyer

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[Global: Africa]

We condemn the arrest of Peter Erlinder by Rwandan authorities and demand his immediate release. Professor Erlinder, a faculty member at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States and president of ADAD, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association, was arrested by the government of Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president.

He is charged with violation of Rwanda’s so-called “"Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology," apparently because, in the course of his representation of clients before the ICTR, he has challenged the accepted story of the Rwandan Genocide. He has also been a critic of Kagame and filed suit against him in the United States, alleging he triggered the genocide by ordering the assassinations of Juvenal Habyarimana, president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, president of Burundi, whose plane was shot out of the sky in 1994.

It is evident that 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 appropriate venues to test the truth of Erlinder’s claims are the courts in which he is litigating and the preemptive strike against that by the Rwandan government can only lend credence to those claims. The Rwandan government and President Kagame should not fear 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, especially including the government of Rwanda and President Kagame, should applaud his dedication to his clients’ causes.

We 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.

"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. We are particularly proud to note he is one of many outstanding and fearless freedom fighters who have led our organization," said David Gespass, the Guild's president.

"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, his daughter.

"Speaking Truth To Empower"

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