PropertyProf Blog

Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, May 28, 2010

Professor Peter Erlinder Arrested in Rwanda

Forgive me -- I know this does not relate to property law, but I hope you'll agree it's worth the space here under the circumstances. 

William Mitchell College of Law Professor Peter Erlinder, my colleague, is passionately devoted to the protections of due process.  He has devoted his professional life to representing, pro bono, targets of government prosecution, including the least admirable criminal defendants -- the ones no one else will represent.  Without lawyers willing to do that, of course, there can be no due process.  He is currently the lead defense counsel for several Rwandan genocide suspects being tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

He was arrested in Rwanda today -- apparently on charges of "genocide ideology," by which is apparently meant that he has denied the Rwandan genocide.  Of course, when a zealous advocate represents defendants accused of genocide, he might be expected to deny that what occurred was genocide.  He had entered the country to help defend a current candidate for President in the country's upcoming elections, who had also been arrested for "genocide ideology."  The Rwandan government has also recently barred Human Rights Watch from the country, closed independent newspapers and arrested opposition supporters.

The New York Times and the National Lawyers' Guild, of which Peter is former president, report that he is being interrogated in Rwandan police headquarters. 

It is precisely because we so revile defendants accused of such horrific acts that the work of advocates like Peter Erlinder is so necessary.  Please consider contacting your representatives, asking them to pressure the Rwandan government to release Peter.

Mark Edwards

[Comments are held for approval, so there will be some delay in posting]

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/property/2010/05/professor-peter-erlinder-arrested-in-rwanda.html

| Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bfae553ef0134826ecd0b970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Professor Peter Erlinder Arrested in Rwanda:

Comments

Why should the Rwandan government release him? Shouldn't the Rwanda government go through "due process" for someone who has entered the country and been accused of breaking one of their laws? Are you advocating that America use a strong arm to interrupt Rwanda's due process? What are you trying to say?

Posted by: Dale | May 28, 2010 8:19:53 PM

I am saying that the very fact that an advocate has been arrested for advocating on his client's behalf demonstrates that there is no Rwandan due process at the moment. But you don't have to take my word for -- the current President, Kagame, recently told the Independent (U.K.) that human rights were mere "niceties" and not a priority for his administration -- an administration which claimed 95% of the popular vote in the last election, widely denounced as a fraud. Do you imagine that it is a coincidence that Erlinder was arrested while representing one of Kagame's rivals in the upcoming election, who herself was arrested just weeks before?

I am not saying America should strong arm to interrupt Rwanda's due process. I'm saying America should strong arm to insist that its citizen be given due process, which is not available to him now.

Posted by: Mark Edwards | May 29, 2010 2:28:53 AM

This delibarate act of Rwandan stronghold's arrogance is a test for American politicians who have poushed Kagame to commit what he is still doing in the Central Region of Africa. It will show for who really they are devoted to protect: their hown citizen first or the sub-contractors in the lotting of congolese resources. As matter of fact, not defending the right of Prof Peter Erlinder will be considered as an act of betray. This is surely for them the time to clean the mess caused by someone eye's prunel.

Posted by: Kamongo | May 29, 2010 4:09:02 AM

I am a Rwandan living in Rwanda following closely what is going on in Rwanda I wanted to say that this is the true picture of Rwanda today. This arrogance comes as a result that Kagame is the USA proxy in the region in order to continue mining illegal minerals in Eastern DRC where the RPF Kagame military has killed 6million people so far and no trace and no justice either. Every body who is a Hutu and any Tutsi who is for justice is also a genocide denier. Around 90% of Rwandans do not accept this leadership but USA continues to impose this hooligan dictator on us just for the sake of DRC minerals.can now US lawyers put their hands and legal intelligence together and free Rwandans?

Posted by: KANAMUGIRE | May 29, 2010 7:33:21 AM

I feel sorry for mr Peter on one hand. On the other hand, i find it a good thing that God gives to Rwandans to show th whole World what situation and context rwandans are undergoing. If a personality like Peter can be arrested in Rwanda over his opinions and profession, what else do you want to do.

US government is one of supporters of Kigali regime. That is the reward that regime has planned to give to your citizens. Congratulations !

Posted by: Peter | May 29, 2010 9:59:09 AM

Hi there !
I can understand that anyone can choose their sad when it comes to cdommon interests. Mr Erlinder decided to defend those whith whom he shares some "values": mind you, these people committed tho most despicable crime on the face of this earth: a genocide. I, myself, am the only adult who survived in my entire extended family. What should I think about such an idiot who dares to say that what happened to my beloved ones is just another war, civilians killing civilians. I sometimes wonder if people like Prof Erlinder, whose I.Q. must be pretty high, do also have what is called "Emotional Intelligence" !!! If it is so, then theirs sometimes seems to be lower than the one of the average pitbull!

Richard Batsinduka

Posted by: Richard Batsinduka | May 29, 2010 11:41:14 AM

The reaction to the arrest of Professor Erlnder will be mirror of the Obama administration on its commitment to the rule of law that President Obama made in Accra Ghana when he made visit to AFRICA in July 2009.

Already we can imagine what would have been the response if the iranian government or Venezuela had arrested an american citizen on flimzy grounds.
These double standards are the greatest enemy to the promotion of the rule of law in the world and promote chaos created by those who exploit the situation to take the law in their own hands.

Posted by: Nsengiyumva | May 29, 2010 12:14:23 PM

I do not think that being a "Professor" and a "Lawyer" from the West gives to anybody the "Green Light" to do whatever they wish just because the genocide was committed to Black Africans, namely the Tutsis. For me, a Lawyer/ Professor is a Lawyer/Professor indeed no matter what his /her roots are. on the other hand, a Lawyer/professor who is a criminal is just a criminal and should pay the price of crimes he/she committed !
On another note, I do believe that Rwanda needs a genuine reconciliation process to survive as a nation. There cannot be reconciliation without forgiveness. And there cannot be forgiveness without the perpetrators asking for it, showing remorse and acknowledging that what they did was terribly wrong. How can these people be part of the reconciliation process when they feel strongly supported by Western Professors/Lawyers who, like themselves, deny the evidence of the Genocide that they carried out ???
Can any one of these professors behind Mr Erlinder explain to me how they would vision "Reconciliation" in Rwanda, a process that would take into coinsideration the interests of both the survivors of the genocide and the perpetrators of the genocide?

Thanks
Richard Batsinduka

Posted by: Richard Batsinduka | May 29, 2010 3:44:26 PM


Denying the Tutsi genocide is a crime as it is a crime to deny the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide. There are at least seven countries which have entered specific legislation into the law books dealing with the subject of anti-Semitism (: Romania, Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, France, Sweden and Austria). Why Rwanda should not enforce its own laws? Because Erlinder is a lawyer has the rights to deny the Tutsi Genocide. In the US yes but not in Rwanda. He shall only enjoy the rights to a speedy and public trial.

Posted by: Edouard | May 29, 2010 7:35:41 PM

Common guys! Please intervene as soon as possible for Peter Erlinder, for this is a disgrace for America and for the entire free world to have an American citizen arrested in the tiny third world country for just expressing his basic freedom of speech and defending the voiceless of Africa.

Posted by: A Kama | May 29, 2010 9:03:04 PM

The Rwandan genocide was one of the most vile, evil acts in world history -- of that I have absolutely no doubt. I am currently in the Czech Republic, where 3 days ago I visited a memorial to another vile, evil act of genocide, perpetrated against the Jews of Europe by Nazis and their collaborators. Not far from here by plane or train is Bosnia, where other such despicable acts were committed.

BUT, if we are ever to bring the culprits to real justice, then we must have a real justice system.

A real justice system absolutely depends on an advocate for the accused.

Advocating for the accused means advocating their response to the accusations against them.

If advocates can be arrested for advocating for the accused, then there can be no real justice system, which means the culprits can never be brought to real justice.

No one doubts that Adolf Eichmann got real justice -- he deserved the death sentence given to him, which we KNOW because he was given his sentence through the process of real justice system. He had a trial and an advocate who vigorously represented him. No one arrested Eichmann's attorney for espousing Eichmann's response to the charges against him, because it was understood that real justice depended upon his advocate's freedom to do just that.

Radovan Karadzic is now on trial for genocide. He has an advocate who is free to advocate on his behalf. If he did not, and then Karadzic was found guilty, we would never know if his sentence was the product of real justice. Now we will know.

The criminals who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents in Rwanda deserve any fate they receive through the functioning of a real justice system. I hope the guilty ones are executed. I hope Rwandan society can find peace and reconciliation.

But it can never happen if the guitly ones are not brought to real justice; real justice cannot happen without advocates for the accused who can advocate the accuseds' position.

Arresting people like Erlinder is much, much worse than an injustice to him alone. It is also an injustice to those who want the murderers brought to real justice.

For the victims' sake, and Rwanda's sake, and Erlinder's sake, I hope he is set free immediately.

Posted by: Mark Edwards | May 30, 2010 3:35:04 AM

Rwandans should be serious and avoid all those unnecessary diplomatic mistakes. Genocide was done against rwandans by rwandans. All other things people are talking about are speculations for own interests. Foreigners might have failed to help prevent or stop it but I don't see how they can be responsible of the genocide.
Therefore, the solution to rwanda problems should be found among and between rwandans. Arresting an american that he got a different opinion is a little more to ridiculous.
We all critisize what other countries do but those countries do not arrest us when we pass by or when we visit them. Denying the genocide, what it the use of accepting it ? Will we have back people who were terribly killed? Where dinied or accepted, it has happened, people have died for no reason.

How to avoid same situations in the future is an issue that has to be done by the Rwandan society. Trying to delay it and putting too much efforts in speculations around denial and ecceptance is just missing the point from the current Rwandan government.

On top of that, RPF has fought rwanda since 1990. The genocide happened four years later in 1994. In what Kagame government talks today, I don't see any reference to something else than the genocide. It is like they knew that the genocide will happen. What if there was no genocide ?

Arresting a lawyer is also difficult to figure out. That person is visiting Kigali to defend somebody. If that person doesn't appear before the court, the lawyer will have nothing to do.

The best recommendation is that the presecutor in Rwanda should stop creating the need for a lawyer. Either pronounce that Ingabire is guilty without appearing or let her go free.
If she is brought before the court, it implies that the judiciary system in rwanda is not sure whether she is innocent or not hence a judge will confront her to the prosecutor for each to put his thesis.

Posted by: Peter | May 30, 2010 3:42:15 AM

If Kagame has a plan to arrest people who got different opinions from his and his core group over the subject of genocide and massacres, my advice is that he should build enough prisons.
Very few on this planet agree with him on his version of he genocide and massacres that befelt Rwandans between 1990 and 2000. All agree that it happened but who is responsible and why it happened is a different thing. There is no justified genocide but there is also no justified massacres or any loss of human lives. This is where people differ.

Genocide and massacres are hot buttons of the current regime in Kigali. Kagame know that the majority of rwandans do not agree with him. They are only silenced. But until when does he think to be able to control what people think about that subject.

Foreigners are free of any charge about Rwandan genocide. Peter E should be released immediately.

Posted by: Peter | May 30, 2010 5:12:45 AM

Before we start making assumptions of Peter's viewpoints, please read this web page which states his position (and which he wrote):

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/East_Africa/Rwanda_Genocide_Coverup.html

It is the twisted logic of Kagame's regime that instituted a law that basically means, if you don't accept the government's position on the genocide, then you are a "genocide denier" and can be jailed.
Peter in NOT saying it didn't happen, but says the Kagame insurgency was part of the problem- both before and after the killings of 1994.

Posted by: Scott | May 30, 2010 5:50:32 AM


With this arrest, you can now guess the fate of a common Rwandan citizen as far as freedom of expression is concerned. At least the whole world have started to see how life is in for the majority of Rwandans. This is the twisted logic of Kagame's regime that instituted a law that basically means, if you don't accept the government's position on the genocide, then you are a "genocide denier" and can be jailed even to a life sentence.

Mr. Batsinduka Richard, I'm so sorry u lost people during the genocide; at least you can talk about it and you have IBUKA and FARG to take care of you, pay your school fees through universities and have 5% of Rwanda budget directed to your welfare. Every Rwandan must pay 1% of their pay check to take care of you. This is not enough compared to what you lost BUT

What about me who's parents were massacred by RPF even before 1994? I survived and fled with my uncles and aunts to Congo then my Grandma, all my paternal uncles and 17 cousins were massacres by RPF in the refugee camp when Rwanda invented Congo. I luckily survived and came back with my Aunt, her husband and 3 of their remaining kids (cousins). In 1997, my Aunt and her husband were all killed when RPF massacred all civilians it had called in a meeting at one market place. I and the three kids survived. These kids are now grown ups but they didn't enjoy the priviledge u enjoyed just because they were "hutu" thus not eligible to government suppoort.

We do not have even a fundamental right of mourning our parents because if we did then it will be translated into accusing the current regime of killing people thus double genocide which could earn us a life sentence. Isn't this ridiculous?

Prof peter's charges are politically motivated by the fact that he has chosen to defend Ingabire whom they are torturing.

Release Prof Peter with immediate effect!

Posted by: Musemakweli | May 30, 2010 4:53:04 PM

Mr Musemakweli,
You do not know me and I do not know me. But what I do know is that you are my fellow Rwandan brother. Period ! Trust me or not, I would rather be 150% empathetic with you, because I sense what you went through, given our terrible history. But please, please understand me: I will never, never, but NEVER buy the idea of DOUBLE genocide. Let's put things straght: I do not need IBUKA or anytody ales since I left the country Rwanda long ago (1973, alone at a young age, leaving my beloved ones behind in Rwanda. Why do you think I left the country while you were enjoying yourself there ??? Think aout it ! And I was not the first one indeed !All started in 1959! Anyway Just to let you know that ever since I learned how to survive without relying on anybody ! Here I am, a Canadian Citizen, but stil a survivor of the genocide carried out against my people, maybbe by the beople of your own family you are talking about ((just assuming)! Where were you in 1959, 1962-63, 67, 73, 90, 94, when my beloved one were constantlyy demonize, victimized, became what your evil artists called "inyama zaa Nyamunsi" (Bikindi dixit) please translate for your foreign supporters ! Now that one of these foreign criminals is in the hands of Law, you are crying wolf ! By the way, mister, if you and I, both victims, are to reconcile, do we really need these rather biased "third parties" ???

Thanks fo responding .
Richard

Posted by: Richard Batsinduka | May 30, 2010 6:36:07 PM

Peter is being denied access to council, the embassy staff has the Memorial Day weekend off (amazing they aren't there, given that the holiday is for remembering those that fought and died for freedom). There have also been serious allegations that the Kagame regime may poison his food (based on previous cases and sworn testimony)
The Rwanda Sunday Times had a scathing article of fabrications and mistruths and have openly stated they will ignore the principles of Commonwealth Nations they just signed on to in 2009. (see links below)
http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/perm...
http://www.newtimes.co.rw/index.php?issue=14276&a...
http://www.thecommonwealth.org/document/181889/34...

The Orwellian "Genocide Law" in Rwanda is a creation of the Kagame regime to suppress dissent. Peter NEVER denied the deaths, what he DID point out is Kagame's complicity in creating the atmosphere that allowed the genocide to happen and that he wanted justice for ALL Rwandans- Hutu or Tutsi. Kagame continues to repress the majority Hutu in the country.

I know him better than anyone on the planet and he would say, if he could communicate, that the long list of those that died before, during and after 1994 would want the truth to be seen by the whole world. Wars have always created questionable acts on BOTH sides and it is only by rule of law and investigation that we expose things that may not be so pretty to the rest of society. (think Dresden, Hiroshima, etc on the Allies side in WWII)

Calling Peter Erlinder a genocide denier is like calling Raul Wallenberg a Nazi.

We urge EVERYONE to bang on doors, call on everyone you know around the world to get Peter out NOW.

Posted by: Scott | May 31, 2010 6:52:06 AM

This is an SOS.

I sadly heard that Prof P Erlinder, jailed in Rwanda since 28th of May, is now being treated in a local hospital for unknown illness. Please, all of you who are concerned with P Erlinder's case, do whatever possible to get him out of there with no delay. There are serious fears that he might be poisoned and die. Obviously, Rwandan authorities do not want him alive.

Remember that P. Erlinder's name is reported to be on a secret list of foreigners to be assassinated as it leaked from last annual meeting for Rwandan ambassadors held in Kigali by the end of 2009. Now they have got him, he might not leave Rwanda alive, on his feet. Poisoning people is an Art Rwandan authorities master at the Highest Degree!

Posted by: j banda | Jun 1, 2010 2:12:58 AM

Richard,

Sorry to say that but
You say you you are empathetic with Musemakweli but when I read what you wrote, it is not true at all! It's like you are saying that if he went through the butshering of his whole family, he deserved it because your family died in 59, 60's, 90 and 94, and he was able to live freely in Rwanda and not you!!!!! so let's not call what happen to him another genocide, but can you answer this: Does he deserve justice or not? Does he deserve to mourn his relatives or not?If you say no, then don't say you are empethetic with him it's not true!

how do you name what happened to his family(more than 20 persons I think)? massacre? normal loss due to war? please answer this!

You don't even know his age!If he is 28 or even 30, how can you take him responsible of what happened to your parents in 59 , 73 and even 94???????

you want the whole word to understand your suffering, but why do you categorically refuse to understand sufferings of others?

Posted by: lyss | Jun 1, 2010 3:43:17 AM

Prof. Peter Erlinder is being persecuted by the extremist Tutsis in power in Rwanda, in their attempt to hide the truth.

In Rwanda, there are two groups of Tutsis. The extremist Tutsis who grew up in neighboring Uganda and the moderate Tutsis who grew up in Rwanda. The extremist Tutsis who grew up in Uganda have never liked the moderate Hutus who grew up in Rwanda. Whereas the extremist Tutsis believe they are royal blood who are born to rule, the moderate Tutsis consider themselves normal human beings. But somehow the extremist Tutsis have used the moderate Tutsis as pawns to be sacrificed in their quest for power.

On January 28, 1993 exactly 15 months before the so-called "Tutsi genocide", it was the first time that anyone had ever mentioned the word "genocide" in relation to Rwanda. This word was mentioned by extremist Tutsis who were part of the RPF rebel group. From that moment on, these extremist Tutsis in the RPF started using the word "genocide" in all their interviews, their speeches, their written materials, everything. On the other hand, on February 8, 1993 exactly 11 days after the first mention of that word, the extremist Tutsi forces in the RPF butchered 40,000 unarmed Hutu civilians in one day in the regions of Ruhengeri and Byumba in Rwanda. Since then, the extremist Tutsis in the RPF escalated their killings of the Hutu civilian population over the following 15 months. This appears to have been a calculated effort to provoke the Hutu extremists into mass revenge killings, which would then be labeled "genocide" and with the international community on their side, the extremist Tutsis can take over power. The extremist Tutsis' wishes appear to have been granted on April 6, 1994 when they finally killed two Hutu Presidents, president Habyarimana of Rwanda and president Ntaryamira of Burundi as well as the Hutu Chief of Army. The Hutu extremists after 15 months of sustained provocations launched into mass revenge killings against moderate Tutsis that have since been labeled the "Tutsi genocide."

A fair review of Rwandan history that fully examines all the actions that have been taken by extremist Tutsis since January 28, 1993 when they first claimed "genocide" can only lead to one conclusion: the extremist Tutsis continuously intentionally provoked extremist Hutus into the mass killings until the extremist Hutus were foolish enough to oblige them.

Rwanda will never move forward until the crimes against humanity committed by extremist Tutsis are acknowledged too. The saddest part in all this is that the moderate Tutsis and the moderate Hutus are the ones that have suffered whenever the extremist Hutus and the extremist Tutsis decided to kill people.

Arresting Professor Erlinder will not prevent the truth from coming out. If anything, the world will learn faster about the extremist Tutsis that have been pretending to be nice to the outside world while butchering millions of people in Rwanda and in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Posted by: Aimable | Jun 1, 2010 5:23:45 AM

Let pray for Prof Peter Erlinder so that God can protect him. This terrible regime can do anything to any one.

Remember, at least every single RPF solders, has killed more than one civilians innocent person, hutu or tutsi. Even those who could not kill have been forced to do so. They fear nothing:They enjoy killing.

The USA administration should intervene to set free Mr Peter otherwise anything can happen.


Posted by: Dunia | Jun 1, 2010 8:38:02 AM

Dear Brother Rwandans ,

We must think properly and avoid to put in our eternal conflict people who don't have any connection .How a Jew can negate a genocide of Tutsi but the fact he is defending a candidate in presidential election or defending a group of high former Rwandan government servants is not a sufficient to deny his right of representation .....a Jew of English origins exposed the use of phosphor sulfur in combat by tsahal on Palestinian but the Israel government took a diplomatic and juridical path to defuse it

I believe Government of Rwanda and the RPF party have enough critical mass to reverse that other decision based on the emotional feelings as done in the handling of French case which culminate with renewer of relation with Sarkozy despite paralyzing human relations ,schools , embassies ...we must show the world that we are not eternal complaining child ....we are a mature people not eternal refugees who ever complaining even after entering in government

The Ibuka have never put the concern of that professor because he is the only direct organization to represent the survivors of genocide ,how the Rwanda government acts on things which have not go though special channel ...only to end up embarrassing Rwandan as the case of the Belgian priest .

I respect the Rwandan Government but I want to tell them to avoid haste politics either for Ingabire ,many incarcerated Rwandan ,Sarah Peter Arlinda .

I believe that there are factors who explain the genocide of Rwanda and the history shall illuminate our path to explain our dark history,peter is a person who can get a bad version of the truth or be misinformed by his contacts outside of Rwanda as Rwandese of all ethnics are going around cheating the outside world in order to secure power at home at all cost .

Not the case of Peter expose our fragility as a people , our backwardness as people
Instead of putting him in jail why don't give him a tour on the genocide survivor site as is done always to the visitors and let him go and soul search him self ....and let represent his client as planned to secure a multiparty election

Posted by: Jose Castro Madeira | Jun 1, 2010 8:53:05 AM

Robert Servatius, the lawyer who defended Eichmann -- as well as defendants at Nuremburg -- referred in court to the killings of Jews by poison gas in the death chambers as mere "medical matters." Despite that, the court did not interfere with his representation of Eichmann by arresting him or by any other means. Because of that, and ONLY because of that, we can be absolutely certain Eichmann had free and zealous legal representation. And because we can be certain Eichmann had free and zealous legal representation, and ONLY because of it, we can be absolutely certain he had a fair trial. And because we can be certain Eichmann had a fair trial, and ONLY because of it, we can be certain he deserved the punishment he received. His condemnation has withstood and will withstand the test of time.

If we want the perpetrators of the Rwandan horrors to be condemned certainly and finally, like Eichmann, then we must make sure that that like Eichmann, they have counsel who can provide them free and zealous representation.

By imprisoning the perpetrators' advocates, the Rwandan government is destroying its opportunity to condemn the perpetrators finally and completely. We will never know for certain. That is a horrible tragedy.

Posted by: Mark Edwards | Jun 1, 2010 11:56:44 AM

Kate, do you remember the 400 years preceding 1959 when the Tutsi aristocrat minority enslaved the Hutu peasant majority? The ethnic hatred that has creeped into Rwandan society has a lot of historical background that you seem to ignore. But a lot of the older generation of the peasants still have scars from their slavery time before 1959. If you want lasting peace in Rwanda, you need to calm down and examine the situation objectively. You will realize that there is plenty of blame to go around for the madness that took place in Rwanda. Pretending as if one side is evil and the other side is full of angels will not help.

Posted by: Aimable | Jun 3, 2010 10:19:15 AM

Kate,

I deleted your comment because I do not want this to become a forum for advocating violence. I want you to be able to make your statement. If you can make your statement without suggesting violence, I'll gladly leave it up.

Posted by: Mark Edwards | Jun 3, 2010 3:12:29 PM

Post a comment