Sunday, January 16, 2011

DEBATE ON AMERICAN LAWYER'S ARREST IN RWANDA HITS BACK AT ICTR

By Hirondelle News Agency
12 January 2011

Aloys Ntabakuze has revisited the debate on arrest of his American lead counsel, Peter Erlinder, by requesting for permanent stay of proceedings in his appeal against life imprisonment sentence rendered by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) two years ago.

However, the prosecution vehemently opposes the request by the former Rwandan army officer, submitting that what he was trying to advance to support his current move have already been conclusively determined by the Appeals Chamber in its decision dated October 6, 2010.

In this new development, Ntabakuze has filed what he called "Exceptional public motion for permanent stay, to uphold the rule of law and appearance of justice in proceedings before the Appeals Chamber."

He is seeking for stay of proceedings for his case, claiming he would not get fair trial following threats to personal safety, arrest and subsequent prosecution of his lead counsel, Erlinder, by Rwandan government.

"The appellant is deprived of a fully effective representation, violating his right to a fair trial. This case has arrived at the regrettable, but irretrievable, position that a permanent stay of proceedings is the most appropriate course of action open to the Chamber, to uphold (its) integrity and the ICTR itself," Ntabakuze said in his motion published on the ICTR website.

However, the prosecution seeks dismissal of the motion. "The appellant's request for a permanent stay of proceedings of the appellant's case is unwarranted and his motion should be dismissed in its entirety. The prosecution requests the Appeals Chamber to find that the appellant's right to a fair trial would not be impended," it submitted.

The prosecution states that the appellant was attempting to re-litigate issues which have already been adjudicated by the Appeals Chamber after going through several documents, including those the appellant has relied upon in supporting the present motion.

According to the prosecution, the Appeals Chamber had reviewed the documents involved before the arrest of Erlinder and found that except for one item, all others constituted private commentary by the counsel on the case rather than words or written statements made in the course of representation of the appellant.

Final determination of the debate is yet to be delivered.

Erlinder was arrested in Rwanda on May 28, 2010 and was later charged with genocide denial. He went to Rwanda to defend opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire of unregistered political party, the United Democratic Forces (UDF-Inkingi) who wished to run for presidency alongside President Paul Kagame and ended up being charged with genocide denial.

Rwandan prosecution said Erlinder would be summoned any time to face prosecution and if he would jump bail and not respond to the summons, it would use the Interpol to track him down for his arrest.

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