KIGALI - The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has banned controversial American attorney Prof. Peter Erlinder, from appearing before the tribunal as a lead counsel of Genocide suspect, Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze, over misconduct and disregarding the tribunal’s orders.
The ruling made on April 21, means that Erlinder, who had earlier been served with several warnings, will be replaced immediately as lead counsel for Ntabakuze.
According to the ruling seen by The New Times, Erlinder, had been served with several summons to appear in Ntabakuze’s appeal, but he remained elusive.
This prompted the court to impose sanctions on the American lawyer who had earlier claimed that he feared travelling to Arusha for his personal security, but later cited his medical condition as the reason for not travelling.
However a panel of Judges led by Patrick Robinson, found Erlinder’s actions amounting to contempt of court and rather “unprofessional” because he never took the initiative to inform the tribunal.
“Considering that Lead Counsel's conduct amounts to a failure to act diligently and in good faith and does not demonstrate the highest standards of professional conduct,” the ruling signed in The Hague reads in part
“Considering further that Lead Counsel's failure to inform the Appeals Chamber in a timely manner of his inability to attend the appeal hearing due to non-emergency medical reasons amounted to an obstruction of the proceedings and was contrary to the interests of his client,” it adds.
The ruling further recalls that pursuant to Rule 46(A) of the Rules, the Chamber may, after a warning, impose sanctions against a counsel if, in its opinion, his conduct remains “offensive or abusive, obstructs the proceedings, or is otherwise contrary to the interests of justice”.
Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, confirmed being aware of the sanctions against Erlinder, but was non-committal.
“The decision is an internal one. It is about his relations with the ICTR and my office has nothing to do with it,” Ngoga said.
According to reliable sources at the ICTR, the decidion against Erlinder is the highest sanctions against a defence lawyer in the history of the tribunal.