International Justice Tribune (RNW), June 2, 2010
US lawyer Peter Erlinder is being held by Rwandan authorities, charged with denying the country’s 1994 genocide. Under a 2003 law, persons convicted of denying or grossly minimising genocide, attempting to justify genocide or destroying evidence related to it are liable to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 in prison.
Erlinder arrived in Rwanda last week to defend aspiring presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire. Ingabire was herself arrested and released on bail in April, charged with promoting genocide ideology and with having ties to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a UN-listed terrorist group.
Rwandan chief prosecutor, Martin Ngoga, told AFP that Erlinder was arrested for remarks made in publications and statements. “Erlinder’s unapologetic violation of these laws is self-evident. He has continually engaged in conspiracy theories and denial surrounding the circumstances of the genocide...Entering Rwanda was a brazen act of provocation, since Erlinder must clearly understand he is in breach of the laws of our country.”
In April, Erlinder - who represents top genocide suspects at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - filed a lawsuit in the US alleging that current Rwandan president Paul Kagame ordered the attack on a plane carrying then-leader Juvenal Habyarimana, an event that triggered the bloodshed 16 years ago.
“The offence Peter is charged with is [based] on the suppression of free speech in his representation of clients, which undermines the rule of law,” Masako Usui, Erlinder’s wife, said in a statement.
The US State Department will hold a press conference on Erlinder’s detention later today.
Also read: Rwanda genocide tribunal rapped for silence over jailed US lawyer