KIGALI - A decision by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has paved the way for the government to continue with the prosecution of Prof. Peter Erlinder.
Tharcisse Karugarama, the Justice Minister, said yesterday that the government is set to proceed with trial after the ICTR “removed all possible doubts on why he is being pursued”.
Karugarama stressed that the essence of that judgment, particularly in paragraphs 28, 29 and 30 of the Chamber’s ruling, was to the effect that Erlinder was being prosecuted in Rwanda for crimes committed outside his normal duties as defence counsel at the tribunal.
“We welcome this decision and we will implement the part that relates to us, as a country. We shall proceed to prosecute him on charges that he committed outside his duties as defence counsel,” he noted, stressing that Rwanda respects the functional immunity for Defence Counsel.
“The importance of this judgment is that the Appeals Chamber has unequivocally removed any doubt about the basis for prosecuting Peter Erlinder – namely, that he is not being prosecuted for crimes, or for utterances or for actions related to his work at the ICTR,” Karugarama said.
He underscored that Erlinder is being prosecuted for things he did in his private or academic world and had nothing to do with the utterances or actions in his capacity as an ICTR defence attorney.
Part of paragraph 27 states that while in Rwanda: “He was therefore not immune from personal arrest or detention as provided for under Section 22 (a) of Article VI of the Convention.”
The Appeals Chamber also stressed that when Erlinder was arrested in Kigali, on May 28, on allegations of Genocide denial, he was in Rwanda “for reasons unrelated to his work at the Tribunal.”
The controversial US lawyer who had come to represent Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire, the president of the yet-to-be-registered party, FDU-Inkingi, is part of a revisionist network, most of them defence lawyers of the ICTR.
While in detention, Erlinder faked illness several times, including a suicide. He was released on bail on compassionate grounds to allow him to seek medication for depression and other mental issues.