KIGALI - Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, yesterday said that the Government was surprised by a demand from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) seeking the release of American defence lawyer, Peter Erlinder.
The Arusha based Tribunal had Tuesday maintained that 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. Ngoga said he was surprised by the different position taken by the ICTR.
“The Prosecution has always maintained that the case against Erlinder is not related to his work at the ICTR,” Ngoga explained in a press statement.
He said there were mixed messages from the ICTR on Peter Erlinder’s case which needed clarification.
“I will meet with them in the coming days to ascertain precisely why they appear to have changed their minds so drastically,” explained Ngoga.
He said the country respects the role and mandate of the ICTR, and “we look forward to constructive discussions with them over Erlinder’s matter.”
“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 had told Agence France Presse (AFP) Tuesday.
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,” Amoussouga explained.
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 today.