Arrested American Lawyer In Rwanda Hospitalized

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[Global: Rwanda]

Peter Erlinder, the American law professor jailed in Rwanda where he had travelled to represent his client, Ms. Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader, has been hospitalized there.

Erlinder, professor of Law at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN and Lead Defense Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (I.C.T.R.) was arrested in Kigali, Rwanda on May 28, 2010.

On June 7, 2010, his application for bail was denied.

In an email the Embassy and Erlinder's lawyers told the family that on June 16, 2010 Erlinder was taken to the King Faisal Hospital in Kigali over serious concerns about his blood pressure. He is asking to see doctors of his choice, rather than those provided by the government prosecuting him. At the family's request, the ICTR is working on sending doctors to see him and the family has also requested assistance from the Red Cross. Erlinder has not been able to take his blood pressure medication for more two weeks.

A decision from the Rwandan Court on Erlinder's appeal of the bail decision is expected at 4pm on Thursday, June 16, 2010.

In a two-page letter issued this week the ICTR Office of the Registrar in Arusha wrote, "The ICTR hereby informs the Rwandan authorities that Professor Erlinder enjoys immunity and requests, therefore, his immediate release."

On June 14, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to a question at the Diplomacy Briefing Series Conference on Sub-Saharan Africa in Washington, D.C., concerning the Erlinder arrest and said: "We’ve made [those concerns] known to the Rwandan Government. We really don’t want to see Rwanda undermine its own remarkable progress by beginning to move away from a lot of the very positive actions that undergirded its development so effectively. We still are very, very supportive of Rwanda. ... But we are concerned by some of the recent actions and we would like to see steps taken to reverse those actions.

On the one hand, I understand the anxiety of the Rwandan leadership over what they view as genocide denial or genocide rejectionism. There are many countries that have been in a similar historic position, so I do understand that and I know that they are hypersensitive to that, but – because, obviously, they don’t want to see anything ignite any kind of ethnic conflict again. So I’m very sympathetic to that.

But I think that there are ways of dealing with that legitimate concern other than politically acting against opposition figures or lawyers and others. So on the one hand, I understand the motivation and the concern. On the other hand, I want to see different actions taken so that we don’t see a collision between what has been a remarkably successful period of growth and reconciliation and healing with the imperatives of continuing to build strong democratic institutions."


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