Monday, May 31, 2010

U.S. Law Professor Arrested in Rwanda

Erlinder, Peter C. Peter Erlinder is a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota.  Click here to read his law school bio.  He is the director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute at William Mitchell.  Erlinder is also president of ICTR-ADAD (Association des Avocats de la Defense) and past-president of the National Lawyers Guild in New York City.

According ot a report in today's Chicago Tribune, Professor Erliner travelled to Rwanda on May 23 to help defend opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire against charges of promoting genocidal ideology. Ingabire was arrested earlier this year.

Professor Erlinder was arrested on Friday at his hotel in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.  Attorneys were allowed to visit him on Saturday but were denied access on Sunday "and told to pay up if they wanted Erlinder to continue to eat in jail."

Professor Erlinder's daughter Sarah told the Chicago Tribune that she thought that his arrest had very little to do with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda but was related with representing an opposition candidate. 

Professor Erlinder started working as a defense attorney for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2003.  He also runs the Rwanda Documents Project, which publishes articles that are critical of the government of Presdient Paul Kagame.  Click here for an example.

Erlinder was arrested on Friday on charges of denying genocide.  The crime carries a possible sentence of 20 years. 

Erlinder had warned that he might be targeted by the government of President Paul Kagame.

President Kagame has been lauded abroad for social and economic reforms. The president is running for another seven-year term.  The elections will be held on August 9.  Some human rights groups are reported to say that Kagame's administration rules with an iron hand and quashes dissent.  Click here to read more. 

The dean of the William Mitchell College of Law issued the following statement:

Statement from President and Dean Eric S. Janus on Prof. Peter Erlinder’s arrest in Rwanda

On Friday, May 28, we were notified that Professor Peter Erlinder was arrested in Rwanda. At this time, he has not been charged with any crime. Our primary concern is for Prof. Erlinder’s safety and we hope the situation is resolved both fairly and promptly.

William Mitchell is working with the United States Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to monitor the situation and provide any assistance possible. In addition, we are in contact with representatives from the offices of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Betty McCollum, and Rep. Keith Ellison to make them aware of the situation and provide information about Prof. Erlinder’s work in Rwanda.

William Mitchell has a 110-year history of legal education that is engaged with the legal profession, and we support and encourage the legal pursuits of our faculty beyond the college. Prof. Erlinder is in Rwanda to represent Victoire Ingabire, an opposition candidate for President of Rwanda who was arrested over accusations of promoting genocide ideology. In traveling to Rwanda, Prof. Erlinder exemplifies the great tradition of lawyers who take on the representation of unpopular clients and causes. That Prof. Erlinder did so at great personal risk demonstrates the strength of his commitment to justice and due process. We support his commitment to justice, the rule of law, and public service, which are the core of the lawyer’s function in society and values Prof. Erlinder works to instill in the students he teaches at William Mitchell.

We look forward to Prof. Erlinder’s return to the college and will continue to monitor his situation and work with the United Nations and the United States government until the issue is resolved.


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