Rwanda will not abandon the case against Prof. Peter Erlinder, the American lawyer who was arrested and charged with revisionism, minimising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and spreading rumours that threatened state security.
According to Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, Erlinder, who was arrested at the end of May when he arrived in the country to supposedly defend the embattled leader of FDU-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire, will be summoned back to the country to answer charges after he was released on bail on medical grounds in June
“You may also recall that few days ago the ICTR ruled that he doesn’t have immunity when it comes to publications and statements that he does out of the scope of his duties in the defence council of his clients at the ICTR,” said Ngoga.
“That his arrest here was not in breach of his functional immunity because he was not on ICTR business. That is the development that paved the way for us to pursue the case against him”.
Ngoga added that during his bail hearing, Erlinder, provided to the court the commitment that he would return when summoned and he provided the address through which the prosecution would serve him with summons.
“Actually when he was requesting for bail, he even provided some insight on how he could be handled if he refused to turn up. Things that we knew and others didn’t know,”
“So we are almost ready with our case and we are ready to summon him and this is what we will do,” Ngoga said
According to Court records, the Minnesota lawyer said Rwanda could even go ahead and get him debarred if he did not respond to the court’s summons.
“They can bring me here. I can be questioned at any time. I have to register my lawyers, of course. And if for some reason I were to misrepresent this to the court here, the court could seek my dismissal from the ICTR and my disciplinary proceeding back in the United States.” Erlinder told the High Court in June, but Ngoga said that that is not exactly what prosecution will do.
“I am not saying that is what could be done if he doesn’t turn up, but he knows the consequences of jumping bail. He is a lawyer. If he jumps bail, we will pursue the procedures against someone jumping bail and we will explain what we will do when time comes,” Ngoga said.
“I am not going to anticipate that he will not turn up,” he added
Ngoga dismissed recent allegations by Erlinder that he fears for his life. Erlinder earlier this week issued a statement that he fears he could be poisoned or he could disappear if he returned to Rwanda.
“It is ridiculous for someone to portray the same judiciary that granted him bail as the same system that would poison him. It is like he is talking about two extremes,”
“One jurisdiction that grants you bail, even at the risk of you not turning up when you are needed, and it is the system that is planning to poison him?. Why is it that we didn’t poison him when he was still here?” Ngoga wondered
Ngoga said that the allegations are just baseless and that perhaps he is preparing the grounds to jump bail.
“One thing that I can confirm to you is that we shall soon summon him. We will not request that he be arrested again. He will be ready to fight his case as a free person and he will be allowed to assemble a team of lawyers that he wants and bring them here, but he must face the charges against him,”
Ngoga added that Rwanda is a country that wants to set standards because it suffered the Genocide not long ago and it cannot be a country that plays around with people who are denying it or are justifying it.
He added that Rwanda cannot allow people like him to play with the security or history of the country.
“For people like Erlinder, you could even question why is so interested in our history and he is much more aggressive in its distortions than even Rwandans themselves,”
“That’s a question he can probably answer himself. How come somebody from Minnesota is so much entrenched in Rwandan affairs, is so much interested in defending the cause of Genocide? How did he get involved in this in the first place?” Ngoga said.