Saturday, June 19, 2010

Court Grants Bail and Frees American Lawyer in Rwanda

The New York Times
June 17, 2010

KAMPALA, Uganda — Peter Erlinder, the American lawyer jailed in Rwanda after being accused of denying the country’s genocide, was released Thursday on bail amid growing international pressure, allowing him to leave Rwanda, possibly for good.

Judges in a high court in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, overturned an earlier decision to deny bail to Mr. Erlinder, 62, citing questions over his medical condition. Mr. Erlinder, who has been hospitalized since Tuesday with high blood pressure, was not present.

“Peter can go back to the United States,” said Mr. Erlinder’s lawyer, Kennedy Ogetto, adding that there was no scheduled time for him to return. “There is no date.”

The court’s decision came after pressure from the United Nations and the United States to free Mr. Erlinder, who works at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Dozens of lawyers at the tribunal, which handles cases related to the Rwandan genocide but is based in Tanzania, said that Mr. Erlinder had been arrested for his work there, despite holding diplomatic immunity, and they had threatened to stop working because of his case.

Mr. Erlinder was arrested days after going to Rwanda in May to represent Victoire Ingabire, a presidential candidate charged with “divisionism” and “genocide ideology,” and with collaborating with terrorists ahead of elections scheduled for August.

Although Mr. Erlinder had been jailed for weeks in Rwanda, his lawyer, Mr. Ogetto, said that he had never been formally charged with any crimes. He was originally denied bail so that the police could continue investigating, Mr. Ogetto said, and there was no determined date when Mr. Erlinder would have to return, if at all.

But the Rwandan government said that it had charged Mr. Erlinder, and that despite his absence the investigation would continue.

“The decision to grant bail to Peter Erlinder was made out of concern for his physical and mental health,” the Rwandan government said in a press release after the court decision, “and in no way diminishes the seriousness of charges against him.”

“Bail on health grounds cannot be mistaken as vindication for Mr. Erlinder,” Martin Ngoga, Rwanda’s prosecutor general, said in the statement. “It just proves that the justice system he so freely criticizes was willing to show him compassion.”

For Mr. Erlinder’s relatives, who say they have not spoken with him since his arrest, the decision came as reassurance.

“I am so relieved I can hardly believe it,” said his daughter, Sarah Erlinder. “It’s not over, I don’t think, but it’s a huge step forward.”

American in Rwanda freed, but still faces genocide denial charge

American lawyer Peter Erlinder was released by a court in Rwanda. But he still faces charges that he denied the 1994 killing of 800,000 people is genocide.

US lawyer Peter Erlinder (l.) greets Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire at a high court in the capital, Kigali, Monday. Mr. Erlinder who was accused of denying the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, was released by a Rwandan court in Kigali today. Hez Holland/Reuters.

By Scott Baldauf
Staff writer
The Christian Science Monitor
June 17, 2010
Johannesburg, South Africa

Peter Erlinder, an American lawyer accused of denying the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has been granted an unconditional release by a Rwandan court in Kigali today.

Mr. Erlinder was arrested last month and charged with denying and minimizing the genocide, soon after arriving in Rwanda to defend opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire on similar charges of genocide denial. Erlinder has reportedly promised to return to Rwanda to face the charges against him, although he is currently in a hospital in Kigali for an ailment related to blood pressure.

Erlinder’s family, reached by phone in the US, says that they are relieved to hear the news and that the US Department of State has confirmed that Erlinder has been granted unconditional release.

“We’ve just gotten confirmation from the US consul in Kigali, who had attended the hearing,” says Erlinder’s daughter, Sarah Erlinder. “He is in the hospital right now, but we expect he will be able to return in the next couple of days.”

UPDATE: Rwanda's Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga said in a statement: “Bail on health grounds cannot be mistaken as vindication for Mr. Erlinder – it just proves that the justice system he so freely criticizes was willing to show him compassion with respect to his physical and mental wellbeing. This will not deter the prosecution as we finalize the case against Mr. Erlinder."

Erlinder’s case raised a chorus of concern from lawyers groups such as the American Bar Association, and from human rights activists. It also highlighted what Human Rights Watch has called an increasingly authoritarian streak by the government of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country since pushing out the regime of assassinated President Juvenal Habyarimana in July 1994.

Most experts pin the blame for the genocide on the extremist followers of Mr. Habyarimana, who preached hatred of Rwanda’s minority Tutsis, and called for the mass slaughter of Tutsis over state-controlled radio stations. But Erlinder and some moderate politicians of the Hutu majority say the real story is more complex, arguing that the violence of April – July 1994 was spontaneous.

Rwandan law specifically forbids the reinterpretation of the events of that time, and many ethnic Hutu politicians and other critics of the Kagame regime say this law is often used to silence critics under the threat of “genocide denial.”

Ms. Erlinder says she has no idea what her father will do next – whether he will return to Rwanda to face the charges against him, or to continue to act as a defense lawyer for Ms. Ingabire, the opposition candidate.

“I saw that story also (about his pledge to return to face the charges) and it sounds like him,” says Ms. Erlinder. “He’s not someone to run back here and hide.” She adds that she believes that her father didn’t realize he might be arrested for statements he had made about Rwanda’s history.

Erlinder’s brother, reached by phone in the US, also expresses relief at the news of his brother’s release. “Oh boy, am I going to kick his butt when he gets back,” he laughs.

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire released on bail

Rwanda crackdown: Human Rights Watch researcher denied visa

US professor Peter Erlinder seeks bail for Rwanda genocide denial charges

Rwanda news coverage

“Professor Carl Peter Erlinder be hereby unconditionally released”

By Adam Hooper
Rwanda News Agency
June 17, 2010

Erlinder’s lawyer Otachi Gershom and opposition politician Victoire Ingabire express relief as they exit the courtroom.

Kigali: American lawyer and accused Tutsi Genocide denier Peter Erlinder was released on bail from detention in Kigali today for health reasons, though he has yet to be released from hospital.

Erlinder was arrested 20 days ago in Kigali, accused of denying the 1994 Tutsi Genocide. He was denied bail in intermediate court last Monday. He appealed in high court on Monday, and the verdict was pronounced in an hour-long ruling ending around 5 p.m. this afternoon.

“It is ordered that Professor Carl Peter Erlinder be hereby unconditionally released from detention on health grounds as explained above,” said Judge Johnson Busingye. “It is ordered further that investigations into his case will proceed while he is not in detention.”

The decision overturned the intermediate court ruling to keep Erlinder in detention for 30 days while the prosecution built a case against him.

Erlinder and his lawyers argued on Monday that the lower court ruling didn't take into account Erlinder's medical conditions. They presented three doctors' testimonies, signed by United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton, to back up their claim.

Erlinder himself gave testimony of his three visits to hospital, first for high blood pressure, second for attempted suicide caused by depression, and third for cotton stuck in his ears.

The prosecution argued that Erlinder's medical records were inconsistent and incredible, and they said Erlinder would tamper with witnesses and evidence should he be released.

The day after the hearing, Erlinder was admitted to hospital a fourth time, for very high blood pressure. According to his lawyer Ken Ogetto, his doctor said he was unfit to attend and the prison guards tending to him decided to keep him in hospital.

On the issue of medical conditions, the judge sided firmly with Erlinder.

“No matter how great the accusations, his physical and mental health must take precedence over the case against him,” he said. “One reason is that it would be unjust to put his life at risk of morbidity or mortality as suggested by his doctors.”

Erlinder can now return to America for medical treatment, though he is ordered to cooperate with the prosecution for the genocide denial case ahead.

It seems the decision is exactly what Erlinder's lawyers were aiming for.

“I am happy with it. I don't know about my client, whether he is happy with it, but I imagine he will be,” said Kenyan lawyer Otachi Gershom.

Prosecutor Jean Bosco Mutangana held his head in his hands during the ruling, and he refused to comment.

The date of Erlinder's actual trial is still uncertain, and his client, presidential hopeful Victoire Ingabire, is unsure of whether and how soon Erlinder can defend her in court.

“I hope that he can go on as my lawyer,” she said. “I hope that soon my case he will also fight in the court and that we can work together”

Rwanda frees U.S. lawyer due to health, charges remain

By Hereward Holland
June 17, 2010

(Reuters) - Rwanda on Thursday freed an American lawyer it has charged with genocide denial and threatening state security, allowing him to leave custody on health grounds while investigations continue.

Rwanda's Foreign Ministry said the release of Peter Erlinder, a lawyer at the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), who was arrested in May, would have no impact on the severity of charges levelled against him.

The case has strained relations between Rwanda and the court, set up to try those responsible for the most serious crimes committed during Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Erlinder earlier this year filed a lawsuit accusing Rwandan President Paul Kagame of ordering the killings that sparked the genocide. He is the first foreigner to be tried under Rwanda's 2003 anti-genocide legislation.

"It is an order that ... Peter Erlinder be hereby unconditionally released from detention on health grounds," High Court judge Johnson Busingye said in Kigali. "Investigations into his case will proceed."

The ICTR had earlier said Erlinder should not have been held as he had immunity and Rwandan prosecutors used a statement made in a case at the international court as evidence in the case against him in Rwanda.

The U.S. State Department had called on Rwanda to release Erlinder on health grounds.

Gershom Otachi, Erlinder's lawyer, said his client was in hospital on Thursday but understood that he would be allowed to leave the country as he had been given an unconditional release.


Usually a defence counsel at the international court, Erlinder went to Rwanda to defend outspoken presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, who was arrested on genocide denial charges in April and later released on bail.

"Bail on health grounds cannot be mistaken as vindication for Mr. Erlinder -- it just proves that the justice system he so freely criticises was willing to show him compassion with respect to his physical and mental well-being," the Rwandan prosecutor said in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

"This will not deter the prosecution as we finalise the case against Mr. Erlinder. He will soon be called to defend his record of genocide denial that insults the people of Rwanda and inflames those who seek to harm us," it added.

The U.S. lawyer has been in hospital four times since his arrest complaining of heart problems and panic attacks. He has denied the charges of questioning the genocide against Tutsis, saying his words were misinterpreted by the government.

Rights groups say the anti-genocide law is vague and used for political and personal reasons. Rwanda denies that, saying the laws are necessary to prevent a repeat of the genocide in which 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

(Writing by David Lewis; editing by Janet Lawrence).

Related Materials:
Kagame releases Professor Erlinder on medical grounds

Professor Peter Erlinder granted bail in Rwanda, reportedly can leave country

By Beth Hawkins
June 17 2010

Peter ErlinderFaculty at William Mitchell College of Law learned this morning that Professor Peter Erlinder has been granted “unconditional” bail for “humanitarian and health-related reasons” by a Rwandan court.

Details are still trickling in, said Dean Eric Janus, but the initial reports from Erlinder’s family and lawyers suggest he is free to leave the country.

“That may not happen until tomorrow,” Janus said. “The paperwork still has to go through.”

Erlinder was arrested May 28 in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, soon after his arrival to prepare a case for charges of genocide-denial against opposition presidential candidate, Victoire Ingabire.

At the moment, Erlinder is hospitalized, said Janus. The totality of the 62-year-old professor’s health care concerns is not known, but relatives have confirmed that he is having problems with his blood pressure and apparently acknowledged a suicide attempt.

“So apparently this has been a very traumatic experience for him,” said Janus.

Erlinder mistrusted blood pressure medication Rwandan authorities provided after his arrest, Janus explained. The pills he was given were loose, not in labeled packaging.

His likely release is only the latest chapter in a complex, fierce struggle between the Minnesota lawyer and Rwandan President Paul Kagame over the historical record of the Rwandan genocide. Earlier this month, MinnPost examined Erlinder’s years-long effort to implicate Kagame and to expose what Erlinder calls a cover-up by the U.S. Pentagon of the true story behind the genocide in which some 800,000 people were slaughtered.

On June 2, jailers found Erlinder unconscious in his cell. They claimed he had swallowed a number of prescription drugs before he was to undergo more police interrogation.

“When we asked him why, he said he wanted to commit suicide,” said a Rwandan police spokesman, Eric Kayiranga, told the New York Times. “He knows the charges against him, he knows the weight of the sentence.”

Janus said he was told Erlinder would not have to post bail and was unsure when the professor might return home.

Erlinder still in hospital hours before bail verdict, say lawyers

By Adam Hooper
Rwanda News Agency
June 17, 2010

Kigali: Imprisoned American lawyer Peter Erlinder is still in hospital hours before the High Court judge is scheduled to tell him whether or not he can return to the United States, according to his legal team.

Erlinder was admitted to King Faisal hospital in Kigali Tuesday night for the fourth time since Rwandan police arrested him 20 days ago. His lawyer, Ken Ogetto, explained by email that he was experiencing very high blood pressure.

The National Police could not be reached for comment on Erlinder's condition.

Erlinder has been accused by Rwandan authorities of Genocide denial, a charge he denies. He was denied bail in the intermediate court on June 7 but appealed the decision in high court this Monday, June 14, saying his health conditions must be treated in America and that he will return to face Rwanda's courts if he is released.

The prosecution argued that Erlinder is too much of a threat to Rwanda's national security to be allowed to leave the country, even temporarily.

The judge is scheduled to pronounce whether Erlinder will be granted bail this afternoon at 3 p.m., but it is unclear what will happen if Erlinder is unfit to attend.

"His defence team will be in court in the afternoon," Ogetto wrote this morning, "and it will be up to the court to decide whether or not to proceed in his absence."

US professor Peter Erlinder seeks bail for Rwanda genocide denial charges

Peter Erlinder was arrested last month as he was preparing a case for charges of Rwanda genocide-denial against opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire. The court will decide Thursday afternoon.

Peter Erlinder, a US law professor at the William Mitchel College of Law in Saint Paul, Minn., who is charged with genocide denial appears at the Gesabo Intermediate Court outside Kigali, Rwanda, on June 7, awaiting the court's verdict on his appeal for bail. Erlinder has been representing controversial Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, who is also accused by the government of Paul Kagame of revisionism concerning the Rwandan genocide during the early nineties. AP Photo/Marc Hofer.

By Scott Baldauf
Staff writer
The Christian Science Monitor
June 17, 2010
Johannesburg, South Africa

An American lawyer, Peter Erlinder, arrested on charges of denying and minimizing the Rwandan genocide of 1994, will find out on Thursday whether he will be granted bail in a trial that is expected to signal just how much room there is for political expression and dissent in the country ruled for the past 16 years by President Paul Kagame.

Mr. Erlinder, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., was arrested in the nation’s capital, Kigali, on May 28, soon after his arrival to prepare a case for charges of genocide-denial against opposition presidential candidate, Victoire Ingabire.

If convicted of the charges against him, Erlinder could face 10 to 20 years in prison. Even before jail time begins Erlinder’s family worry about his health in custody. Erlinder was taken to hospital on Wednesday June 16 for concerns about his blood pressure.

“The (Rwandan) government has a reputation in implementing economic reforms, tackling corruption, and in women’s representation, and that makes it a ‘donor darling,' ” says Jason Stearns, an independent analyst on Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “But at the same time, Rwanda’s government has greatly restricted political space and the freedom of expression, which raises fears about the long term sustainability of those reforms.”

With elections looming later this year, the big question isn’t who is going to win, says Mr. Stearns; the greatest possibility of dissent comes from within the ruling party, not the opposition, as shown through a series of high-level defections from Kagame’s inner circle. “The big question is how over the next seven-year term will Paul Kagame transform his government,” says Stearns, “from a very tightly controlled one into one that is more broadly representative.”

The case against Erlinder

As a lawyer, Erlinder has been a thorn in the side of the Kagame regime since the mid-1990s, defending former Rwandan military officials who were accused of orchestrating the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans from April to July 1994. Erlinder’s defense exonerated the top accused of orchestrating the genocide, although some subordinates were found guilty of specific war crimes short of genocide.

Erlinder’s statements are controversial. He doesn’t actually deny that the killing of 800,000 Rwandans (mainly of the Tutsi ethnic group) took place; he just denies that the slaughter was organized by Kagame’s enemies, the extremist members of President Habyarimana's government, but was rather the spontaneous reaction by civilians.

Erlinder also alleges that the slaughter was largely kicked off by a military invasion by President Kagame himself, when he was a rebel leader, after the April 6, 1994, assassination of Habyarimana.

“The real news was that ALL of the top Rwandan military officers, including the supposedly infamous Colonel Bagosora, were found not guilty of conspiracy or planning to commit genocide,” Erlinder wrote in a contentious article entitled, “Rwanda: No conspiracy, no genocide planning... no genocide?”

“This raises the more profound question: If there was no conspiracy and no planning to kill ethnic (i.e., Tutsi) civilians, can the tragedy that engulfed Rwanda properly be called 'a genocide' at all?” he continues. “Or, was it closer to a case of civilians being caught up in war-time violence, like the Eastern Front in WWII, rather than the planned behind-the-lines killings in Nazi death camps?”

Erlinder frequently questions the use of the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of April to July 1994, and the Rwandan government has compiled evidence of his avoidance of the term to argue that he is in contravention of its nebulous law against genocide denial.

"There is strong evidence against Carl Peter Erlinder especially through his publications and conferences," reads an English version of the indictment against Erlinder obtained by the Monitor. "For instance, in his article published on February 2, 2009 he said that 'In early 2008, Spain indicted 40 leading members of Kagame government which followed a late 2006 French indictment charging Kagame and his followers with assassinating former Rwandan and Burundian Presidents, the crime that triggered 1994 civilians-on-civilians killings in Rwanda.' The fact that Carl Peter Erlinder said that what happened in Rwanda in 1994 were civilians-on-civilians killings is evidence that he denies genocide."

US reaction

The American Bar Association, the US State Department, and a number of US congressmen have urged Rwanda to release Erlinder and to drop the charges. A congressional resolution reminded Rwanda’s government that its Constitution provides for free political expression, and also that the US government has provided nearly $1 billion in foreign assistance since 2000.

Yet those who have faced the Rwandan court system on political charges say that Kagame will remain dogged in his pursuit of those he regards as political enemies, including Erlinder and Ingabire.

“I don’t see how anyone can have a fair trial in Rwanda,” says retired Col. Patrick Karegeya, Kagame’s former head of external intelligence from 1994 until 2004, when he was jailed for insubordination and later fled into exile in South Africa. “There is no judicial system. OK, if you get caught stealing a chicken, that is one thing. But when it comes to political cases, which I think this is, even getting bail is very hard.”

Related Links:
Rwandan opposition leader Ingabire released on bail

Rwanda news coverage

ICTR calls for release of US lawyer in Rwandan custody

By Dwyer Arce
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Tuesday called for the release of US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive] in a letter [text] to Rwanda authorities. Acting on the advice of the UN Office of Legal Affairs [official website], the ICTR asserted in the letter that Erlinder has immunity from prosecution under the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations [text, PDF], a treaty that Rwanda to which is a party that prevents legal action of any kind against UN employees working in an official capacity. Despite assurances to the contrary by Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga [New Times profile], the letter points to the arguments made at Erlinder's June 7 bail hearing [JURIST report], as evidence that the genocide denial charges against him are related to his work as defense counsel at the ICTR, stating:

The ICTR notes that the Prosecution appearing before the High Court made specific references to words Professor Erlinder spoke and statements he made in his case before the ICTR. ... Although no formal copy of the charges brought against Professor Erlinder has been received yet, the ICTR takes the view that the decision of the High Court constitutes a sufficient basis to identify a link between the nature of the accusations against Professor Erlinder and his mandate with the Tribunal.
Erlinder has appealed the decision at the bail hearing, where the court found him to be a flight risk and denied bail despite his claim that he needed to return to the US for medical treatment following what Rwandan officials say was a suicide attempt [JURIST report]. The appeal hearing is scheduled for Thursday. On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] stated that the Obama administration had expressed concern [statement] to the Rwandan government over Erlinder's detention and the prosecution of opposition candidates but emphasized the US government's continued support for the Rwandan government.

Last week, US Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) [official websites] introduced a resolution [JURIST report] calling on the Rwandan government to release Erlinder in order to "prevent ... an impasse in relations" between the US and Rwanda. The resolution emphasizes the amount of aid that has been given to the Rwandan government by the US, which is to be increased by 43 percent in the 2011 budget [materials] and has amounted to over a billion dollars since 2000. The resolution has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives [official websites] for consideration. The resolution came a day after a joint statement [JURIST report] calling for Erlinder's release was issued by more than 30 defense lawyers from the ICTR. The statement described the arrest as indicating a growing threat to the country's legal system. The defense lawyers contend that Erlinder's arrest and subsequent denial of bail "seriously compromised" the ICTR's mission by undermining the independence of lawyers and preventing them from performing their duties without fear of suffering reprisals. Rwandan police arrested Erlinder [JURIST report] last month on charges that he denied the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Erlinder was in Rwanda to prepare his defense of opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website], who was arrested in April [JURIST report] on similar charges. Erlinder has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report].

Rwanda Tribunal defends 1 US lawyer, but another American now faces contempt charge

By The Associated Press
June 16, 2010

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A second U.S. defense lawyer said Wednesday he fears he too could be arrested in Rwanda on charges of denying the country's 1994 genocide after trying to postpone a client's trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Defense lawyers at the tribunal say they feel endangered after Rwanda arrested Peter Erlinder last month and may not proceed with their cases, delaying the start of the defendants' trials.

Rwanda's top prosecutor, Martin Ngoga, said Wednesday that the case against Erlinder is not related to his work at the ICTR. But the tribunal on Tuesday told Ngoga's office it feels the case against Erlinder is related to his work and that he should have immunity from prosecution.

Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, was arrested May 28 while in Rwanda to help with the legal defense of an opposition leader. On Wednesday, American lawyer Peter Robinson said he postponed a trial earlier this month because he feared facing the same charges when traveling to Rwanda for his clients.

"I also wanted to demonstrate that arresting a lawyer for defending his client at the ICTR was unacceptable," Robinson said.

A tribunal judge initiated contempt proceedings against Robinson after his attempt to postpone the trial. A spokesman for the ICTR, based in Arusha, Tanzania, says the two U.S. lawyer's situations are different.

Robinson, of Santa Rosa, California, is expected to be in court next Monday. He said he has not yet decided if he will continue with his client's case.

Robinson said he needs to travel to Rwanda to meet with witnesses, and simply avoiding travel to the country is not an option. He said if he were charged in Rwanda, an Interpol arrest warrant could be issued for him and acted on in other countries.

A statement from the ICTR on Tuesday defended Erlinder, saying he should not be charged because he was defending clients in court when making some of the statements Rwanda arrested him for.

A spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Roland Amoussouga, indicated that the contempt case against Robinson could still proceed despite the ICTR statement in support of Erlinder.

"The content of contempt proceedings is quite different from the statement ICTR made, because the contempt case is over an incident that happened in the court and the chamber has decided to start proceedings," Amoussouga said.

Erlinder has been accused of violating Rwanda's laws against minimizing genocide.

Erlinder, 62, is lead defense attorney for the ICTR, which the U.N. set up to prosecute the suspected masterminds of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Erlinder doesn't deny mass violence happened but contends it's inaccurate to blame one side.

A Rwandan court is expected to rule Thursday on whether Erlinder should be freed on bail. The State Department has called for Erlinder's release but has been cautious in public statements about his case. International groups like the International Criminal Defense Attorneys Association have also called for his release.

On Wednesday, Erlinder's family said he had been hospitalized with high blood pressure. They cited an e-mail from his attorneys and the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda.

The case has sent a chill through the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Defense lawyers there said in a statement this month they were increasingly concerned that doing their job could result in being charged. The lawyers said it was impossible to continue with their mission as long as Erlinder and the rights of the defense are "held hostage."

Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by extremist Hutus in 100 days during the 1994 genocide.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that she understood the anxiety of Rwanda's leaders over what they view as genocide denial or genocide rejectionism, but that there are other ways of dealing with those concerns than acting against opposition figures or lawyers.

Peter Erlinder back in hospital in Rwanda

By Laura Yuen and Madeleine Baran
Minnesota Public Radio
June 16, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — Jailed Twin Cities attorney Peter Erlinder is in a Rwandan hospital again. The 62-year-old St. Paul law professor was taken in for high blood pressure this morning.

It's the fourth time Erlinder has been hospitalized since his arrest last month in the capital city of Kigali for allegedly denying the country's genocide. The William Mitchell College of Law professor had traveled to the African nation to represent an opposition leader who faces similar charges.

Family members say they learned about the hospitalization in an email today from the U.S. embassy and Erlinder's lawyers in Rwanda.

Scott Erlinder of Chicago said his brother apparently has chosen to not take his prescription blood-pressure pills.

"He's not been taking his medication because they're in normal pill bottles, and he's concerned that someone might be tampering with them," said Scott Erlinder. "We've now sent blister-pack medications -- I don't think they've arrived yet -- to make sure they're individually wrapped."

Scott Erlinder said it's hard for the family to assess his brother's medical health.

"We've never been able to talk to him," he said. "All we get is the government's information on that side. And we can only go through what the lawyers have been telling us, but they're not medical people. So who are we to know what the true situation is?"

A Rwandan judge denied Erlinder's request for bail last week. An appeal hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Gena Berglund, Erlinder's friend and colleague, said she hopes that international pressure will lead to Erlinder's release and prevent a lengthy court battle.

"The longer he stays in there, the more entrenched the Rwandan position looks to us and the harder it is, I think, for them to find a way to save face," Berglund said. "So I think the sooner he gets out, the better."

Berglund pointed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks earlier this week as a hopeful sign.

In response to a question asked at a round-table discussion on Monday, Clinton said that that the U.S. had expressed its concerns over Erlinder's detention 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," Clinton said.

Clinton said she understood "the anxiety of the Rwandan leadership over what they view as genocide denial or genocide rejectionism."

"But I think there are ways of dealing with that legitimate concern other than politically acting against opposition figures or lawyers and others," she said.

But Berglund said she knows that Erlinder faces an uphill battle to secure his release.

"We've been hopeful before and been disapppointed," she said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

What does Mobutu and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame have in Common?

By Nkunda
The Cry for Freedom in Rwanda
June 16, 2010

The politics in Rwanda keep on getting murkier and dirtier. Despite international protestation against the illegal arrest of American legal professor, Peter Erlinder in Rwanda, the government of Rwanda has remained defiant and vehemently refused to either release or accord him the dignity of a free, fair and speedy trial.

The calls for Erlinder’s release continue to gain momentum. The renowned legal scholar, Robert Amsterdam in an op-ed to the huffington post does not conceal his outrage that Peter Erlinder has been “ignored by the president of the United States and consigned to unlawful imprisonment by the lowest elements of the Kagame sycophants because of his political views”. He describes this sad news as a “grave disappointment” and declares Mr. Erilnder to be a political prisoner.

In a letter to the The Globe and Mail, Rwandan expert and genocide scholar, Professor Alan J. Kuperman also voiced his frustration. He states that “Mr. Kagame has now arrested Mr. Erlinder for arguing that the genocide was not premeditated”. And adds, “Rwanda today is a dictatorship run by a tiny elite of the Tutsi minority that suppresses the Hutu majority and denies past violence against Hutu civilians”. This is a very bold statement coming from a man who earns his living from studying Rwanda. Like other scholars before him, who have refuted Kigali’s official version of events, there is likelihood that Mr. Kuperman might never be welcomed to Rwanda again. Or even worse, might be charged with breaking one of those draconian/Stalinistic laws, all of them products of Paul Kagame’s ingenious constitution. The laws are “undermining” the Genocide and/or “revisionism of history”.

It is sad that it has taken the arrest of an American legal heavyweight for the world to get a glimpse of what is happening in Rwanda. Yet, for the longest time, human rights organizations have been reminding us that this is a country that lacks the minimum respect for human rights. The alarms have been ignored and just as it happened during the 1994 genocide, Rwanda continues to descend into a precarious ethnic dictatorship.

What is most surprising though, is the fact that, while the government of Rwanda has defied even the most basic democratic principles, its dictatorial leadership has attracted a lot of international praise and has been christened the “darlings of the west”. This striking irony is partly why many observers can’t help it but believe in popularly rumored conspiracy that Kagame is to the United States and Britain, what Mobutu was (to them) during the cold war. Indeed, and sadly, there are many similarities between president Kagame and the late Mobutu.

I hate to write about Mobutu. Every time his name is mentioned, it sends a cold chill down my spine. Mobutu was the African version of Stalin, who completely and purposefully weakened every institution of the republic before declaring himself president for life. We now know, thanks to declassified intelligence information that Mobutu was propped up as the new leader of Zaire, after a CIA-staged coup that resulted into the brutal assassination of the Congolese nationalist and independence leader, Patrice Lumumba. No leader had ever inspired as much hope for the continent as the late Lumumba did.

Mobutu, though by his own count, the wealthiest man in Africa, was not too busy enjoying his loot to kill. No, his was a complete reign of terror but; of course, with some sense of flamboyancy. He revived the ancient Roman Gladiatorial amusements, publicly hanging “political rivals, secessionists, coup plotters, and other threats to his rule”. In May 1966, to celebrate Labor Day, he ordered the shooting of his prime minister and three cabinet members. This was done before as an audience of 50,000—mostly poor peasants, who would otherwise be busy cultivating their fields.

However, Washington kept a blind eye to Mubutu’s excesses. In 1989, Mobutu became the first Statesman to visit the newly inaugurated president, George Bush Sr. In the French documentary Mobutu: roi du Zaire, President Bush is heard showering Mobutu with praises. Not very different from Reagan who had previously called Mobutu a “voice of good sense and goodwill”. Throughout Mobutu’s rule that lasted for more than two decades, criticism of Zaire’s democratic record was completely muted. The US chose to side with the worst despots while giving lip service to democracy.

But Mobutu had other influential friends outside Washington. One of the most striking and unlikely one is the infamous televangelist, Pat Robertson. Apparently, this US miracle worker enjoyed financial deals with Mobutu that included the sale of Congolese minerals. He was a key leading lobbyist for the regime at a time when, in Kinshasa, Mobutu’s dictatorial tendencies had turned human rights activists into an endangered species.

One cannot ignore the horrifying similarities between the two men. President Paul Kagame has attracted the praise of US Evangelical leaders, most notably among them being the influential Baptist minister, the Rev. Rick Warren. Last year, at a time when Congolese activists were accusing Kagame of raping and looting their country—Rwanda has invaded Congo three times in wars that have left 5 million dead, Rick Warren surprised many of us by finding the courage to award Paul Kagame with a “Peace Award”. Kagame remains the closet US ally in the region and the United States continues to ignore Kagame’s increasing despotism. I can’t help but agree with Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr that “the more things change, the more they remain the same”.

Related Materials:
Rwanda and Congo refugees on Kagame's arrest of Prof. Erlinder

California Lawyers Demand Immediate Release of American Attorney Imprisoned in Rwanda


June 16, 2010

CONTACT: National Lawyers Guild
Carlos Villarreal 415.377.6961 (San Francisco) or
James Lafferty 323.653.4510 (Los Angeles)

California Lawyers Demand Immediate Release of American Attorney Imprisoned in Rwanda
Attorneys Call On California House Members to Support Resolution For Peter Erlinder

SAN FRANCISCO - June 16 - California lawyers and activists are joining others from around the world calling for the release of Minnesota attorney and law professor Peter Erlinder from the central prison in Kigali, Rwanda. Erlinder was arrested late last month shortly after arriving in Rwanda to join the defense team of Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Professor Erlinder is a well known human rights lawyer and professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul Minnesota. He has also served as president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and remains active on the organization's international committee.

NLG chapters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and other California members of the U.S. House and Senate to publicly support House Resolution 1426 urging the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and President Paul Kagame to immediately release Erlinder from jail and allow him to return to the United States.

"Erlinder's imprisonment and charges are purely political," said Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area NLG. "This is an attack on lawyers and the rights of individuals to vigorous representation when they are charged with a crime."

Support for Erlinder is widespread. Paul Rusesabagina, the man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, released a statement on his website saying, "Professor Peter Erlinder was doing his job as a lawyer. In a civil society that is not grounds for arrest. If President Kagame considers Rwanda a democracy, he must release Professor Erlinder immediately."

Both the U.S. State Department and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda have called on the Rwandan government to release Erlinder. More pressure is needed, however, as Professor Erlinder will remain in prison during the Rwandan Governments "investigation," which has no mandated deadline for completion.

Professor Erlinder was charged with the crime of "genocide ideology" - essentially a thought crime widely abused by Rwanda to punish opponents of the current government. According to a 2009 Human Rights Watch report: "Largely aimed at the Hutu population, [genocide ideology] offenses permit, among other measures, the government to send away children of any age to rehabilitation centers for up to one year—including for the teasing of classmates—and for parents and teachers to face sentences of 15 to 25 years for the child’s conduct. The government has repeatedly accused the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation and other media outlets, as well as Human Rights Watch, of promoting genocide ideology; accusations these organizations deny."

The National Lawyers Guild is taking a stand on behalf of our friend and member Peter Erlinder. We welcome the introduction of House Resolution 1426 and urge our California Congressional Delegation to support the measure and publicly reiterate the State Department's call for the release of Peter Erlinder.


The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members--lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees--the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

National Lawyers Guild Links:

Michael Hourigan, former ICTR Investigator who Concluded Pres. Kagame Shot Down Pres. Habyarimana's Plane, Writes Letter of Support for Peter Erlinder

To the Editor
Guardian Newspaper
London, UK
15 June 2010

Dear Sir/Madam:

I was stunned by the recent ill-informed remarks of Dr. Andrew Wallis of University of Cambridge made in your newspaper on 14 June 2010, regarding Rwanda's arrest and prosecution of American lawyer Peter Erlinder for alledgedly denying the Rwandan genocide contrary to Rwanda's domestic criminal code.

I am a former Investigations Team Leader with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ('ICTR') from 1996-1997. My colleagues and I were charged with investigating and arresting persons involved in the widespread slaughter of countless thousands of civilians in Rwanda between January-December 1994. I was also charged with investigating those persons responsible for the fatal rocket attack on the Rwandan Presidential aircraft.

I feel qualified to speak in defence of Dr. Erlinder.

He is a UN defence lawyer. I am a former UN investigator and prosecutor. We effectively sit on opposite sides of the bar table before the international community. But we are one in our search for the truth about the real causes of, and culprits responsible for, the Rwandan Genocide.

I join the many lawyers and human rights advocates from around the world who now come to his defence.

I can tell you from personal experience that the ICTR has totally failed to investigate fully and impartially the real causes of the Rwandan genocide. It has failed to hold accountable all those responsible for the slaughter of an estimated 1,000,000 men, women and children in Rwanda in 1994. It has prosecuted only the losers of the genocide. It has buckled to international pressure to keep secret the involvement of foreign powers in the events which led up the to slaughter. There is overwhelming credible evidence suggesting prima facie that Paul Kagame and his armed forces were involved the in slaughter of many thousands of civilians in Rwanda in 1994 and 1995. There is significant credible evidence on the public record linking President Kagame with the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential aircraft in 1994 killing the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and all others on board.

Paul Kagame and his regime in Rwanda has for many years now successfully denied these allegations in the press accusing any and all who touches on them as 'genocide deniers'. What Kagame and his administration are saying, in effect, is that anyone who points the finger at Kagame and his RPF regime alleging their complicity in the violation of international law (no matter how credible the evidence) is a 'genocide denier'. The net effect is, a 'genocide denier,' under Rwanda law, is someone who challenges the carefully crafted victor's history in Rwanda, that only one side slaughtered civilians and assassinated political opposition.

I am stunned at the way the West embraces Kagame and how universities flock to award him for his leadership in Rwanda. Quite apart from the serious allegations leveled at Kagame and his troops for their involvement in war crimes in 1994, many respected human rights advocates have for years complained of his repressive regime and its intolerance of political opposition. One need only look at the recent events concerning the arrest of prosecution of Rwandan opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire, leader of the United Democratic Forces, who had been attempting to register her party and is now under house arrest for allegedly denying the 1994 genocide.

Kagame's fingerprints are all over so much suffering in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region and Dr. Wallis had the real opportunity to join the international struggle to properly document what really happened in Rwanda in 1994, as well as call for a full independent international inquiry into Kagame's involvement in the murders of Rwandan President Habyarimana, his counterpart Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, and countless others who have perished in Rwanda.

If to speak of these topics is to be a genocide denier then I am one too.

Michael Hourigan


Editor's Note: Mr. Wallis' letter can be found at:


PCC : The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda is still a full member of the PCC

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda (PCC)
C/O. B.P. 6334 Kigali, Rwanda,
Tel : +250 788563039, +250 728636000, +250 788307145

Kigali, 16th June 2010.


The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda is still a full member of the CCP.

The members of the Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda discussed the content and the statement by the President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda informing that his political party left the permanent consultative council.

In this respect, the political parties United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi), The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Le Parti Social Imberakuri take this opportunity to inform Rwandans, friends of Rwanda and the media society that :

Our political parties continue to work together in the permanent consultative council of the opposition parties and renew their commitments to a peaceful solution in Rwanda ;

Our political parties condemn any military or violent solution to the Rwandan problems. we strongly condemn the activities of the so-called CDF rebellion and the like, wrongly associated to the political opposition by the regime ;

Our political parties welcome the decision by The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda to withdraw the 15th June 2010 press release claiming that the party left the consultative council.

Ms Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Chairperson, United Democratic Forces

Mr. Frank Habineza
Chairman, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

Me. Bernard Ntaganda
Chairman, Parti Social IMBERAKURI


We have not accused, judged or abandoned Ms. Victoire INGABIRE

Founding President
Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

After the publication of our Press Release on the Withdrawal of our membership from the Permanent Consultative Council (PCC), dated 15th June 2010, we have noted with great concern that several media houses have misinterpreted our message by assuming that we have accused, judged and abandoned Ms.Victoire INGABIRE. We would like to make the following clarifications :

1. We are not accusing, judging or abandoning Ms.Victoire INGABIRE, we believe that she is still innocent in the eyes of the law. We have not said that she is the one behind the Coalition of Democratic Forces –CDF. No one should misinterpret us.

2. Withdrawing from PCC did not mean that we are accusing or convicting FDU Inkingi on any criminal activity, we wanted these accusations which kept on coming in different forms to first be made clear.

3. We call upon the Rwandan Government to accord her a quick and fair trial.

4. We still stand with all the statements we signed while still in the PCC and have retracted the previous statement. In that case we have resumed our membership in the PCC after the three Parties have sat down and fully discussed and resolved the previous concerns.

5. More details will be availed soon in a joint communiqué to be signed by all the three parties.

Done at Kigali, 16th June 2010

Founding President
Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

USA-Rwanda: Hillary Clinton publicly pleads for Peter Erlinder

By Fred Mwasa
African Great Lakes News Repository
June 15, 2010

Kigali: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has personally come out for the first time to urge Rwanda to release embattled American attorney Peter Erlinder – a day after the High Court received a parcel of medical documents directly from her, RNA reports.

Speaking at a foreign policy round-table on Africa at the State Department, Clinton was asked if she was concerned whether recent moves by the Rwandan government, including Erlinder’s arrest, indicate the country is backtracking on democracy. She answered that the U.S. has made its concerns known to Kigali.

“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,” Clinton said Monday.

Mrs. Clinton said she understood “the anxiety of the Rwandan leadership over what they view as genocide denial or genocide rejectionism.”

“But I think there are ways of dealing with that legitimate concern other than politically acting against opposition figures or lawyers and others,” she said, according to transcripts of the event.

On Monday, Erlinder’s defence team handed the High Court judge documents, forwarded by Secretary Clinton, from three American medical clinics outlining his health conditions and recommending he return to the United States for medical monitoring.

However, prosecuting attorney Jean Bosco Mutangana dismissed the parcel as irrelevant since the Rwandan embassy in the US was not involved. He suggested the documents could be forged.

Presiding High Court Judge Johnson Busingye said he will rule Thursday on whether Erlinder should be freed on bail for health reasons.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal for Rwanda (ICTR) issued a diplomatic note to the Rwanda Foreign Ministry and case prosecutors Tuesday, requesting Erlinder’s immediate release, according to The Associated Press.

The note said Erlinder enjoys immunity because it appears the allegations against him stem partly from his statements before the tribunal, said AP.

The head of the Tanzania-based tribunal, Presiding Judge Dennis Byron, is to deliver a progress report to the Security Council on Friday.

Erlinder revealed to Judge Busingye that he had indeed tried to kill himself, as he has struggled with depression for 25 years and has felt suicidal before.

“Your honor, I lost all hope to live,” said Erlinder, who appeared in court clad in a pink jail smock and shorts and sporting a freshly-buzzed head and beard. “When I was in the detention facility not knowing what was going to happen, not being able to talk to lawyers, family, not knowing if I was going to live or die, I had a breakdown,” he said.

But his family is not convinced. Erlinder’s daughter, Sarah Erlinder, said her father’s statements may have been part of a strategy to put his psychological concerns before the court.

The U.S. embassy in Kigali is bringing Peter Erlinder meals in the Kigali Central Prison at the family’s expense. His daughter told AP they want to make sure his food is safe and remove his stress over concerns it might be poisoned.

Peter Erlinder’s wife, Masako Usui, of St. Paul, is in New York this week to meet with U.N. Security Council members. Usui had appointments with Austrian and British diplomats Tuesday and was trying to set up others, said the family.

At Monday’s hearing, Erlinder also alluded to a connection with the Obama family, saying that he was once First Lady Michelle Obama’s “garbage man.” Erlinder’s family says it appears to be a reference to his early days working at his father’s truck hauling business on the South Side of Chicago, according to the Star Tribune.

Erlinder specifically appealed to the White House through his reference to family connection to Michelle Obama in Chicago.

“I would hope my neighbors on the South Side of Chicago would remember the garbage man,” Erlinder told Judge Busingye, “and help explain to the Rwandan government that my prosecution is not doing the Rwandan government any good.”

Panel Seeks Release of U.S. Lawyer in Rwanda

The New York Times
June 16, 2010

KAMPALA, Uganda — The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has formally requested that the Rwandan government release a jailed American lawyer who has represented genocide defendants, saying he has diplomatic immunity.

The request comes after a number of defense lawyers at the tribunal, based in Tanzania, said they also feared prosecution by the Rwandan government and threatened to withdraw their services.

The lawyer, Peter Erlinder, was arrested last month and accused of denying the genocide and threatening state security after traveling to Rwanda to represent a leading opposition candidate in presidential elections set for August. The candidate, Victoire Ingabire, had been charged with espousing “genocide ideology” after she raised the possibility that members of the current governing party might also have committed atrocities in the 1994 genocide.

Human rights observers say the Rwandan government has vaguely defined genocide ideology and is using charges of promoting it to punish political opponents and people who challenge the government’s position that extremist Hutus shot down the Rwandan president’s plane in 1994 to begin the campaign of murder. Hundreds of thousands of minority Tutsis and a smaller number of moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide.

The Rwandan government says Mr. Erlinder’s writings could set off riots and civil disobedience. His defenders note that he may have provoked the government by recently helping file a lawsuit in Oklahoma arguing that Rwanda’s current president, Paul Kagame, was responsible for shooting down the plane, which was carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. He filed the suit on behalf of the widows of the two former presidents.

Administrators at the tribunal sent a formal request to the Rwandan government on Tuesday night requesting his “immediate release.”

“They are prosecuting this guy for what he has done here,” said Roland Amoussouga, the tribunal spokesman.

Rwandan officials could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Erlinder, 62, is a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota. If convicted, he could be jailed for as long as 20 years.

He was refused bail in an initial hearing on June 7; his appeal is to be heard on Thursday in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday urged Kigali to immediately release Peter Erlinder, a US lawyer accused of supporting Rwandan genocide ideology

By WBEZ 91.5
June 15, 2010

Defense attorney Peter Erlinder, an American, sits in a Rwandan jail and stands accused by the Rwandan government of genocide denial and threatening national security. He was charged after alleging in documents that members of Rwanda’s current government shot down a presidential plane in 1994, setting off the genocide.

Erlinder was denied bail last week despite serious health concerns and pressure from the U.S. government. He requested to be released to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons due to failing health.

Erlinder presented medical evidence that he had brain tumor, cardiac difficulties and skin problems likely to become cancerous. Many are skeptical of reports he attempted suicide while in custody.

In response Rwandan prosecutors stated “…we want Professor Erlinder to remain in custody [based] on the fact that he is part of a global network of Genocide deniers from the United States, Belgium, Holland and many other countries[and] he has vowed to rewrite the history of the Genocide…and [provide] intellectual cover for the Genocide deniers.

And with us to discuss the situation is Brian Endless, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Loyola University-Chicago and Senior Advisor to the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation. They work on post-conflict truth, reconciliation and justice issues in Rwanda and Africa’s Great Lakes region...

Rwanda genocide tribunal urges Kigali to free US lawyer

16 JUNE 2010

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday urged Kigali to immediately release Peter Erlinder, a US lawyer accused of supporting Rwandan genocide ideology.

Erlinder, who was detained in Rwanda on May 28, is the defence lawyer for Aloys Ntabakuze who is awaiting the result of an appeal at the ICTR against his life sentence.

The United Nations' Office of Legal Affairs "advised the ICTR to formally assert immunity for Professor Erlinder without delay and request his immediate release," said the Tanzania-based court's clerk, Adama Dieng.

"The ICTR hereby notifies the Rwandan authorities that Professor Erlinder enjoys immunity and requests therefore, his immediate release," he said.

The statement charged that the Rwandan prosecution in Erlinder's case had made clear references to comments the controversial US lawyer made as part of his defence of Ntabakuze.

Erlinder had travelled to Kigali to defend Victoire Ingabire, a Hutu opponent of President Paul Kagame's regime who is accused by the authorities of denying the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people died, mainly Tutsis.

Rwandan Attorney General Martin Ngoga said that references to Erlinder's work at the ICTR in the charges held against him were a mistake by the magistrate that would be clarified soon.

"The charging documents filed by the prosecutor are clear and have nothing to do with Erlinder’s work at the ICTR," he said.

Known for his hostility to the current Rwandan government, Erlinder frequently accuses the ICTR prosecution of covering up crimes committed in 1994 by Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front.

Rwanda: ICTR Asserts Immunity for Peter Erlinder‏

The ICTR hereby informs the Rwandan authorities that Professor Erlinder enjoys immunity and requests, therefore, his immediate release.

Related Materials:
Prof. Peter Erlinder's arbitrary arrest and detention by Rwandan authorities is a shame


ICTR Asserts Immunity for Peter Erlinder

UN's Rwanda genocide tribunal calls for Erlinder's release

By Jeremy Herb
Star Tribune
June 15, 2010

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the United Nations court that has tried Rwanda's genocide crimes — and where St. Paul attorney Peter Erlinder is head of the defense attorney association — has called for Erlinder’s immediate release.

The tribunal, in a two-page letter to Erlinder’s Rwandan prosecutor and the Rwandan minister of foreign affairs, wrote that Erlinder should not be prosecuted because the case against the William Mitchell College of Law professor involves his work as a defense attorney in the tribunal, where his clients were Rwandans accused of genocide.

“The ICTR hereby notifies the Rwandan authorities that Prof. Erlinder enjoys immunity and requests therefore, his immediate release,” the letter said.

The letter cited Erlinder’s June 7 bail hearing, where the Rwandan prosecutor used Erlinder’s statements in the tribunal, in which Erlinder had said that “the killings committed against the Tutsi in 1994 did not constitute genocide.”

The tribunal, based in Arusha, Tanzania, is conducted under the auspices of the UN, and the letter said that those performing work for the UN, including both their actions and words spoken or written, are granted "immunity from legal process of every kind.”

Erlinder, a defense attorney at the tribunal since 2003, has a rocky past at the ICTR: He was part of a defense attorney strike in 2004 and has criticized the tribunal’s ability to give its defendants fair trials. Erlinder’s supporters had previously been critical of both the tribunal and UN for not taking stronger action against Erlinder’s detention.

Hillary Clinton nods to Erlinder's plight in Rwanda

By Kevin Diaz
Star Tribune

June 15, 2010
Imprisoned St. Paul law professor Peter Erlinder got an indirect shout-out from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Monday when she made her first public reference to his case in Rwanda.

Speaking at foreign policy round-table on Africa at the State Department, Clinton said the U.S. has expressed its concerns to the Rwandan government about recent political events in the African country, including the William Mitchell Law College professor's arrest for "genocide denial."

According to an Associated Press account, Clinton said she understood "the anxiety of the Rwandan leadership over what they view as genocide denial or genocide rejectionism."

But she was also quoted as saying "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."

Though she didn’t refer by name to Erlinder, a defense attorney for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, she is quoted as saying "I think there are ways of dealing with that legitimate concern other than politically acting against opposition figures or lawyers and others."

Related Materials:
UN's Rwanda genocide tribunal calls for Erlinder's release

After three weeks in Rwandan jail, Erlinder might soon learn fate

By Laura Yuen
Minnesota Public Radio
June 16, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — Peter Erlinder may soon learn of his fate in a Rwandan jail on Thursday, when an appeals court is expected to decide whether to release the jailed St. Paul law professor on bail.

Erlinder is now in his third week behind bars, charged by Rwandan officials with denying the country's 1994 genocide, an accusation he denies.

His daughter, Sarah Erlinder, said as hard as she tries to remain optimistic, the thought of him dying is always at the back of her mind.

She hasn't been able to see or speak to her father, so she combs the Internet. Photos taken of him Monday in a Kigali courtroom shocked her.

"He has this new shaved head; he has this new pink prison gown. He looks very mortal, and that's upsetting to see."

Erlinder, 62, was under the constant watch of doctors in Minnesota, his daughter said. He has a non-cancerous tumor on his skull, was hospitalized last year for a bleeding ulcer, and was born with a heart condition that will require him to at some point undergo surgery.

His family is paying for his meals to be delivered to him through U.S. embassy officials, afraid that he could be poisoned by prison staff.

Erlinder also admitted in court that he tried to kill himself while in jail through a pill overdose. He told a judge he has struggled with depression for nearly 25 years.

His family this week is traveling to New York, where the head of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda will give the United Nations Security Council a progress report on Friday. Erlinder's supporters want the Rwandan government to drop the charges against him. But Sarah Erlinder said the second-best scenario would be for him to be released on bail and returned to the United States so he can receive medical help.

She said her father could then return to Kigali for a trial, if one is held.

"Knowing my dad, he's not going to run back and hide," Sarah Erlinder said. "If they want to litigate the case, he would go back, I'm sure, and see it through."

Usui and ErlinderBut many hope the case won't come to that. Erlinder is believed to be the first foreigner to be charged under Rwanda's broad rules against so-called genocide denial. Human-rights groups and the legal community fear Erlinder's detention could set a dangerous precedent for defense lawyers.

The St. Paul attorney is defending alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide at the U.N.-backed tribunal in Tanzania. The tribunal wrote Tuesday to the Rwandan government requesting Erlinder's release, saying he is protected by diplomatic immunity. Erlinder doesn't deny the mass killings, but he has filed a lawsuit accusing the current Rwandan president of helping trigger them.

The letter from the tribunal's registrar elevates Erlinder's case from a mere political discussion, said Greg Stanton, a former State Department official who crafted the U.N. Security Council resolutions that created the tribunal.

Stanton said the tribunal's registrar, Adama Dieng, is reminding Rwanda officials of international law.

"I think he's saying, 'Look, this is the law. It was passed by the U.N. Security Council. It has the force of law, and it's applicable to all states. Please don't break it.' " Stanton said.

But the Rwandan government isn't required to abide by the tribunal's request, Stanton said.

Victoire IngabireFor their part, Rwandan authorities have said Erlinder was not charged for his role before the tribunal, but because of papers he wrote outside of Rwanda questioning the genocide.

"This is not about what Peter Erlinder said in his defense of people accused of genocide, what he said in the courtroom," said Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's foreign minister. "I'm talking about what I've seen in the public domain."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters this week she was concerned about Erlinder's case.

Clinton said she understood Rwanda's anxiety over comments that it considers to be "genocide rejectionism." But she said, "I think there are ways of dealing with that legitimate concern other than politically acting against opposition figures or lawyers and others."

Erlinder's wife, Masako Usui, met Tuesday with a British diplomat Tuesday and planned to also discuss her husband's case with Security Council members from Austria and Japan.

Usui said her message to the diplomats is that her husband's arrest is "illegal, unjustified and a violation of international law" as he represented the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

"Why he was arrested is totally related to his work," she said. "And he enjoys immunity as a counselor."

Rwanda: A Citizen’s Weekly Open Letter to General Kagame-June 13, 2010

By Aimable Mugara
Rwanda Human Rights and Democracy
June 13, 2010

H. E. General Paul Kagame
Office of the President
Republic of Rwanda
P.O. Box 15 Urugwiro Village
Kigali – Rwanda
Fax: +250 572431


Prosecutor General
Martin Ngoga
National Public Prosecution Authority
BP 1328
Kigali – Rwanda
Fax: +250 589501

Commissioner General Emmanuel Gasana
Rwandan National Police
Kigali – Rwanda
Fax: +250 586602

Chief Executive Officer
The New Times Publications SARL
Immeuble Aigle Blanc
P.O. Box 4953
Kigali – Rwanda

A Citizen’s Weekly Open Letter to General Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

Dear General,

There are 9 weeks left before the elections. This is my thirteenth letter and there are 9 letters left. This week presents us again with an image of chaos in Rwanda, a place where the entire world is now starting to notice that it is run by people with no respect for human rights whatsoever. People who are hell-bent on staying in power at any cost. Many of us know that this thirst for power is due to a fear that once the current rulers are out of power, they may face justice. Face justice for all the crimes that have been committed against the Rwandan people since October 1st, 1990 and against the Congolese (DRC) people since 1996.

Earlier this week we witnessed a travesty of justice as “Judge” Maurice Mbishibishi made a fool of himself in front of the entire world. Fortunately, the world is not keeping silent, lawyers from all over the world, from East Africa, to Germany to United States and many other countries are speaking up and letting you know that they are aware of your actions and that they are shocked at your disregard for the rule of law. Some members of the United States Congress also chimed in by introducing resolution H. RES. 1426 in the US House of Representatives. 86 (eighty six) deans of law schools throughout America made their voices heard too. Meanwhile, your former bodyguard Innocent Kalisa fled Rwanda, claiming that he had just escaped from an illegal torture chamber in Kigali, where he saw 20 people get killed by your agents within 2 days.

“Judge” Maurice Mbishibishi shocked the world on Monday when he showed that he had no regard whatsoever to the rule of law. According to the transcripts of Prof. Erlinder’s bail hearing that took place on Monday June 7th, one of the accusations against Prof. Erlinder that “Judge” Mbishibishi allowed as evidence was words that he said in the UN International Criminal Court for Rwanda. The idea that a defense lawyer would be prosecuted for words that he said in a UN court is quite unbelievable. The world is watching and this time round you will not be able to use the 1994 genocide as an excuse for this horrible injustice. Your spokesperson likes to talk about how the same thing would have been done in Germany. This cannot be true because the German Bar Association that represents German lawyers has specifically asked for Prof. Erlinder’s release. This Monday June 14th we will witness Prof. Erlinder’s appeal of his bail denial. We will see whether your government is coming back to reality or whether you insist on digging a deeper hole for yourselves in your imaginary world that has no limits.

Many people who really know about Rwanda were not shocked to hear that your former bodyguard Private Innocent Kalisa has fled the country after what he says were two days of torture at an illegal torture chamber at Kabeza in the capital city of Kigali. According to media sources in Africa, Private Kalisa said “I really don’t know how I got here, I must have been the luckiest person because the two days I spent in a Safe House, 20 people, which is an average of 10 per day were executed.” When he said “Safe House”, Private Kalisa apparently clarified that he meant an illegal torture chamber. When the overall commander of your Presidential Republic Guard, Colonel Tom Byabagamba was asked to comment, he apparently said “Kalisa? If he is the Kalisa, I know, he was working with us but he escaped from prison” without giving any reason why Private Kalisa was “arrested” in the first place.

A paranoid regime that alienates even its closest friends cannot last long. Other top Rwandans who were your friends but have fled the country since last year include: Theoneste Musindashaka, Senator Stanley Safari, Lt. Col. Sam Baguma, Capt. Eliphaz Ndikuyezu, Capt. Claude Bizimungu, Capt. John Wuwintari, Capt. John-Bosco Muhizi, Capt. Theobal Gakumba, Capt. John Ontabuka, Jean Pierre Kagubare, Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and Col. Patrick Karegyeya. Not to mention the countless others who have been jailed recently after you suddenly developed a distrust for them.

Mr. President, 9 weeks before the so-called “elections”, there are no signs of any elections. All we can see is a country that is disintegrating day by day. Your supporters in the West who gave you weapons and political cover to fight the war and take power by force are now starting to second-guess themselves. How will this end? Enough blood has been shed since you appeared on the Rwandan politico-military scene. It is time to stop.

Aimable Mugara
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Erlinder’s arrest: justice or politics?

While the arrest of US lawyer Peter Erlinder in Rwanda for genocide denial three weeks ago has sparked international outcry, Kigali stands by its actions and denies that it is acting on political grounds.

By Emmanuel Munyarukumbuzi, Kigali
Radio Netherlands Worldwide
June 16, 2010

“There has been a lot of theatrics surrounding this case, but genocide ideology laws are not about politics or symbolism, and revisionists and ideologues who traffic in genocide denial will be prosecuted and imprisoned,” says Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.

Peter Erlinder, who is one of the defence lawyers at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), is the first foreigner accused under Rwanda’s 2008 genocide ideology law.

After the arrest, Rwandan police spokesman Eric Kayingare, said that Erlinder was accused of “denying the genocide” and “negationism” from statements he had made at the ICTR, as well as “in his books, in publications,” as quoted by the New York Times.

Erlinder, a law professor at the US’ William Mitchell College of Law, was detained on May 28 as he came to Rwanda to defend opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, head of the United Democratic Forces movement. She was arrested in April under accusations of genocide denial and belonging to a terrorist organisation .

Many have protested Erlinder’s arrest. The US had joined in on calls for his release on compassionate grounds because he had complained of panic attacks and heart problems that required treatment at home.

A Rwandan court last week refused Erlinder’s request to be released on bail based on his poor health. Erlinder faces a minimum jail sentence of ten years.

The International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association (ICDAA) has condemned Erlinder’s arrest.

“Professor Erlinder’s arrest is an attack on the freedom of speech and a politically motivated attempt to further frustrate the democratic process in Rwanda,” said Allison Turner, an executive member of the International Criminal Bar, during the International Criminal Court Conference in Kampala last week.

Defence lawyers working on cases at the ICTR have threatened to stop their work, pointing out that Erlinder had been arrested for statements he had made at the tribunal.

Some 30 lawyers have signed a general petition saying they plan not to work unless their security can be guaranteed.

One of them, Peter Robinson, told the ICTR in a letter last week that based on Erlinder’s arrest, lawyers working on similar cases are “at risk for prosecution in Rwanda for genocide and negationism and a threat to national security.”

Robinson further said that this was “an unacceptable risk” for him. The ICTR has since charged Robinson with contempt of court for refusing to continue with his case at the court.

Minister Mushikiwabo contends that Erlinder’s detention has nothing to do with his job as an ICTR defence lawyer.

“It is about his role as a denier, propagator and mobiliser of people who diminish, distort, deny the extermination of a million Tutsi of this country”.

She added that the government understands that ICTR lawyers “have a job to do,” and that Kigali has facilitated them in doing their job. “We believe the ICTR work will go on,” Mushikiwabo said.

ICTR spokesperson Roland Amoussouga said the Rwandan government had assured the court that Erlinder’s arrest “is not related to ICTR business.”

“We are following this matter very closely,” Amoussouga says. “We shall continue monitoring any developments, and we shall protect the rights of the defense counsel if such rights happen to be threatened.”

Amoussouga points out that the court has to be “very careful.”

“Rwanda has its own law and its own processes. If they charge someone for violations of their law we have to be very attentive to see whether the charge against that lawyer are not related to the work that he has done under the curfew of the ICTR,” he said.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Letters: Rwandan genocide versus Genocide law on trial

By Christopher Black
Lead counsel, international war crimes tribunal for Rwanda
15 June 2010

The Guardian Letters to the Editor

Dr Andrew Wallis (Letters, 14 June) defends the persecution of Professor Peter Erlinder for denying the "genocide". Dr Wallis's ignorance of the facts is equal to his prejudice. Professor Erlinder's crime is simply to state the facts as revealed in the trials at the Rwandan war crimes tribunal. The term "genocide" is a word used by the Rwandan Patriotic Front as a term of art for their version of the war. The evidence at the trials puts it beyond debate that the RPF version of the war in Rwanda is a pack of lies from start to finish. The RPF, a wing of Museveni's Ugandan army, started the war, committed most of the massacres, and overthrew the democratic process and installed an RPF military junta which has pushed the country back into the serfdom it escaped in 1959.The truth lies in the transcripts of the trial, Dr Wallis, Try reading them, you will learn something about reality.

Christopher Black
Lead counsel, international war crimes tribunal for Rwanda.

USA: Interpreting Rwandan genocide

By Alan J. Kuperman
LBJ School of Public Affairs
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas

Globe and Mail Letters to the Editor
June 14, 2010

Gerald Caplan remarkably defends Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s indefensible arrest of his leading political opponent, Victoire Ingabire – and Peter Erlinder, the American lawyer representing her – on specious grounds of genocide denial. (The Law Society Of Upper Canada And Genocide Denial In Rwanda – online, June 11).

Ms. Ingabire, an ethnic Hutu, explicitly acknowledges the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. Her complaint is that Mr. Kagame denies and prevents discussion of his troops killing tens of thousands of innocent Hutu before, during and after the genocide. Mr. Kagame has now arrested Mr. Erlinder for arguing that the genocide was not premeditated.

But it is Mr. Erlander’s job to make that argument as a defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. His argument has prevailed at the court, which has acquitted everyone accused of pre-planned “conspiracy to genocide,” issuing convictions only for crimes committed after the assassination of Rwanda’s Hutu president.

Rwanda today is a dictatorship run by a tiny elite of the Tutsi minority that suppresses the Hutu majority and denies past violence against Hutu civilians. The only hope for peace is power-sharing with the Hutu and acknowledgment by both sides of their past crimes – precisely what Ms. Ingabire advocates.

If Mr. Caplan truly wants to promote peace in Rwanda, rather than the myth that past violence was one-sided, he should support the rights of Ms. Ingabire and her lawyer.

Alan J. Kuperman, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.

Related Materials:
Explaining the Ultimate Escalation in Rwanda: How and Why Tutsi Rebels Provoked a Retaliatory Genocide

Rwanda: Erlinder acknowledges suicide attempt in jail

The daughter of the Minnesotan being held in Rwanda said the admission might simply be a strategic move.

Star Tribune staff writers
June 14, 2010

“I had a breakdown,” Peter Erlinder told a Rwandan court on Monday, explaining his mental state when he couldn’t talk with lawyers or family members.

WASHINGTON - St. Paul law Prof. Peter Erlinder told a court on Monday that he did try to kill himself in a Rwandan jail cell this month.

Erlinder, who appeared in Rwanda's high court appealing for his release on bail, said he has struggled with depression for 25 years and has felt suicidal before, according to audio recordings of the hearing obtained by the Star Tribune.

"Your honor, I lost all hope to live," said Erlinder, who appeared in court clad in a pink jail smock and shorts and sporting a freshly-buzzed head and beard. "When I was in the detention facility not knowing what was going to happen, not being able to talk to lawyers, family, not knowing if I was going to live or die, I had a breakdown," he said.

Erlinder's suicide admission on Monday was the latest in a series of odd occurrences stemming from his arrest in Rwanda last month on charges of denying the country's 1994 genocide.

A professor at William Mitchell College of Law, Erlinder remains in prison after being denied bail last week. His appeal will be decided on Thursday.

Erlinder's daughter, Arizona attorney Sarah Erlinder, said her father's statements may have been part of a strategy to put his psychological concerns before the court.

Erlinder's court statements allude to his mental health problems and raise the prospect that he could die in Rwandan custody -- a scenario that could have diplomatic repercussions.

"There's been a lot of guessing on our part about where his head is at and what his strategy is," Sarah Erlinder said.

At Monday's hearing, Erlinder also alluded to a connection with the Obama family, saying that he was once First Lady Michelle Obama's "garbage man." Erlinder's family says it appears to be a reference to his early days working at his father's truck hauling business on the South Side of Chicago.

Amnesty hands East Africa a poor grade for its rights record

Daily Nation
June 13 2010

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC to answer charges of human rights violations. Photo/FILE.
The East African Community, with a market of 130 million people, may be doing well in business, but all the five member countries get a thumbs-down for their human rights record.

This year’s international survey by Amnesty International, the global human rights watchdog, paints the region as not only intolerant to free expression, but also one in which impunity flourishes. The quest for justice and reconciliation seems to be a running theme in all the member countries, apart from Tanzania.

Kenya and Uganda are, for now, focal points in international justice. While in Kenya, those wanted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague are yet to be identified, Uganda is battling with an image problem, not only for failing to hand over rebel leader Joseph Kony, but also President Yoweri Museveni’s remark declaring that Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir won’t be arrested if he landed in Kampala. Mr al Bashir is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity.

The ICC issued a warrant for the arrest for Mr Kony and three of his top commanders in the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2005, but then Uganda and her neighbours, despite being signatories to the Rome Statute, had not carried out the arrests. Rwanda is the only member in the regional trading bloc that has not domesticated the Rome Statute.

Rwanda, on its part, is still smarting from the effects of the 1994 genocide, even as its international tribunal sitting in Arusha enters its twilight years. The report by Amnesty now points accusing fingers at the world-acclaimed Gacaca courts in Rwanda for having “procedures that fail to meet international fair trial standards”.

“Some Gacaca trials were reportedly marred by false accusations, corruption and difficulties in calling defence witnesses,” this year’s Amnesty report released last May 27 noted. But the word impunity rings from all corners of the regional bloc, from the coalition government mandarins in Kenya to President Museveni’s government in Uganda. Burundian and Rwandan regimes also have that word hanging over their necks. Only Tanzania escapes.

In Kenya, it is for failing to apprehend the perpetrators of the post-poll violence now in government, among them top politicians and police officers. Never mind that the Attorney General Amos Wako, whom a United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, Prof Philip Alston, termed as “the embodiment in Kenya of the phenomenon of impunity” is still in office and overseeing the country’s quest for a new constitution.

In Uganda, the violent riots that saw 27 people killed are cited as among the cases in which the government is dithering in having the police officers apprehended for human rights violations. Torture and detention without trial are also in Uganda’s basket of human rights violations.

Rwanda’s record in impunity arises from the clamour to have the generals in the ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front and the Rwanda Patriotic Army brought to book for war crimes committed during the genocide 16 years ago. The Rwandan Government prosecuted some in its ranks, but Amnesty insists, it only went for the small fry as “those who directed the killings were not prosecuted.”

Burundi too has its share of incompetence with the justice system. Not only are judges termed as corrupt and poorly trained, but also, there’s a lot of Executive interference in judicial matters. Burundi’s quest for transitional justice, given its “violent” past is also reported to be on course. The country is still toying with the idea of setting up a special tribunal to investigate the 1994 genocide and prosecute “crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Burundi refugees

Perhaps, only Tanzania seems to be the “clean” country according to Amnesty International’s human rights audit as far as impunity is concerned. For apart from the harsh prison conditions and punitive treatment of detainees, the other blot in its record is the looming threat of evicting 36,000 Burundi refugees from Tanzania and sending them back to their country.

The obvious blot in the regional trading bloc is a shrinking space for the people to exercise free expression. With each one of the countries facing elections in the next three years, the charge is that the ruling regimes are limiting this space to crack down on their political competitors.

In Burundi, the targets are journalists and trade unionists, in Kenya it is the media, and so is the case in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. The governments of these countries have either enacted a law to limit press freedom; or arrested individual journalists; or closed down media houses for hard-hitting reports against the government; or are still drafting laws to rein in the media.

Violence against women is also a blot in the human rights record of all countries in the EAC. But there are unique problems for each country as well. Kenya’s headache is with the internally displaced who are still languishing in camps over two years since the bloody political crisis in early 2008. Then there is the housing crisis and the evictions from road and railway reserves, plus the Mau Forest evictions. The slow-coach that is the beleaguered Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission also gets an unfavourable mention in Amnesty’s report, more so, when it comes to witness protection and reparations for victims.

For Tanzania, the international lobby predicts “political violence” especially in Zanzibar in the light of the impasse over electoral reforms between the two main parties — the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi and the opposition Civic United Front. Elections are coming up later this year; will this predictions hold? Apart from that, there’s the albino killings that the Tanzanian Government is battling with.

Burundi is quietly sorting out its violent land disputes that are rampant in the south of the country, in the provinces of Bururi and Makamba. It is also struggling to set up an independent national human rights commission. A draft law to govern the same came out late last year. Uganda joins Burundi in battling homosexuality, while Rwanda seems to have declared it a “private matter” and decided to live with it, Amnesty International says.

But the tirade against EAC also roped in the continental political unit, the African Union, which stands indicted over its move not to work with the International Criminal Court in arresting Sudan’s President al Bashir. The charge against the continent’s regimes came within the week that Mr al Bashir was sworn in as president after last month’s elections.

The global lobby says that while the disconnect between leaders’ “human rights rhetoric” and “action” was not new, the strong push to bar the ICC from going for President al Bashir was a akin to a conspiracy to perpetuate impunity. The report is titled “Amnesty International Report 2010: The State of the World’s Human Rights.”