Peter Erlinder – Minnesota lawyer still jailed in Rwanda


Here are some updates on Peter Erlinder, the Minnesota lawyer jailed in Rwanda on allegations of “genocide ideology.” A charge of “genocide ideology” means that an individual said something that the government disagrees with about the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and particularly about any involvement by the current president. Erlinder represents a presidential candidate, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who is also charged with “genocide ideology.”

On May 31, Ted Dooley (a Twin Cities attorney and a National Lawyer’s Guild colleague of Erlinder), forwarded an email from someone in Rwanda that said:

Just to inform that Peter has been rushed to the emergency unit this afternoon in Kigali (31.05.2010). This happened after or during CID interrogations today.
After many attempts, people managed to see him and shortly we expect to get a first briefing about his status.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Peter Erlinder Jailed by One of the Major Genocidaires of Our Era
by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson in Monthly Review

The May 28 arrest of the U.S. attorney Peter Erlinder by the Paul Kagame dictatorship in Rwanda reveals much about this regime that is routinely sanitized in establishment U.S. and Western intellectual life and media coverage. … MORE


FROM 5/31 PRESS RELEASE BY Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza:

A fair trial is being violated because international lawyers would fear that their motions will lead to indictments being issued against them for ideology of genocide. In the eyes of this controversial Rwandan law on ideology of genocide, the defence or testimony to show the truth about the killings in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide would be taken as a proof of negation of the genocide. Then, the lawyers, experts’ witnesses and factual witnesses would fear the intimidation and threats to be arrested because of their positions to portray different views from Kagame’s regime.


May 30: forwarded email from Kurt Kerns, who is an attorney for Peter Erlinder:

As stated, myself and Jean Bosco Karungu, a local Rwandan lawyer finally got in to see Peter around four yesterday [Saturday] afternoon. He is in Kicukiro prison in Kigali. While the arresting officers were punks, his guards are treating him well.

He was arrested at his hotel Friday morning around 10:30. They had a search warrant and seized all his belongings. He was taken to police station and advised he was accused of G.I. [“genocide ideology] just like Victoire. He was asked what statement he would like to make and he said “I want my lawyer. I want to call my embassy and I want these damn cuffs off me.”

They then presented him with his statement to sign which included just the first two demands. Peter pointed out there was no reference to his handcuff demand. They then took off his cuffs. He then told them that doesn’t change the content of his original statement. It got added. (It was obvious he was not intimidated in the least) …

He can be held for 72 hours excluding weekend time before brought to prosecutor. Prosecutor decides at that point if going to charge.

Peter advised that he was in Rwanda last in 2006 and he made no statements here. Statements he made were all made in commonwealth countries that protect his speech. He doesn’t think Rwanda has figured out that because they are now part of commonwealth they can’t prosecute speech protected under laws of commonwealth. He pointed out we were here since last Sunday. He delivered introductory letters to prosecutor Ngoga, the bar, minister of justice, all without incident. …

His plan when asked for statement at court is to demand trial forthwith. …

He also intends to continue to fight to defend Victoire. …

Bottom line is Peter is in high spirits. He loves and misses his family but is emotionally and physically prepared to give them a legal battle beyond their wildest expectations.

After I left I went to Victoire. Ngoga summoned her to his office Monday morning. Rwandan procedure allows prosecutors to force defendants to answer questions at their office on demand. …



6/1/2010 correction: typo corrected: “Rwandan genocide of 1994 …”