KIGALI - American defence lawyer, Peter Erlinder has immunity from prosecution as a defence lawyer at ICTR, but that applies only when he is in Rwanda on work related to the tribunal, the Arusha based court has emphasized.
“The arrest of Erlinder and the questions he is being asked do not seem to be linked to his activities at the tribunal,” ICTR spokesman, Roland Amoussouga told Agence France Presse (AFP).
He said the court was also trying to find out if the Rwandan judicial authorities “intend to use Erlinder’s work at the ICTR as evidence for the prosecution”.
Amoussouga said ICTR will not take an interest in his fate, but rather that the formulation of the ICTR’s reaction will depend on what elements the prosecution decides to use against the accused.
He said the court does not claim to have the power or the mandate to obtain immunity for its lawyers in cases that are not directly linked to their work at the ICTR.
“There are two situations where we can claim immunity for our lawyers: when they are on a trip for the ICTR and when the actions they are accused of committing were carried out in the framework of a case they are defending at the ICTR,” he said.
Prosecution Spokesperson, Augustin Nkusi declined to comment, saying they would make their case in court.
The tribunal was reacting to criticism from its defence attorneys that it had failed to take action after the arrest of Erlinder for denying the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Two French lawyers at the tribunal, Arthur Vercken and Anta Guisse, on Tuesday criticized what they said was the ICTR’s silence over Erlinder’s arrest.
The two, who are defending a former senior official in Rwanda’s Interior Ministry charged with Genocide, Callixte Kalimanzira, said they fear Erlinder’s pleas at the ICTR may be used as evidence against him in Rwanda.
Erlinder appeared before the High Court in Kigali on Monday to appeal against the ruling by a lower court to be remanded in custody awaiting the beginning of his trial on charges of Genocide denial.
The Gasabo Intermediate Court denied him bail on the basis that the charges against him were serious and there was strong evidence attesting to this. The bail ruling will be determined on Thursday.