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, over misconduct and disregarding tribunal orders.
The ruling made by the appeals chamber that sat at the Hague on April 21, means that Erlinder, who had earlier been served with several warnings, will be immediately replaced as lead counsel for genocide suspect, Aloys Ntabakuze.
According to the ruling seen by The New Times, Erlinder who has been the lead counsel for Ntabakuze, had been served with several summons to appear in his client’s appeal, but he remained elusive.
This prompted the court to impose a ban 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 Judge Patrick Robinson found Erlinder’s actions amounting to contempt of court and rather “unprofessional conduct,” 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 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.”
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”.
It also noted that the Appeals Chamber had warned Erlinder twice about his duty to adhere to his professional obligations as Counsel assigned by the tribunal but he failed to do so, hence the need to impose sanctions.
“The Appeals Chamber hereby sanctions Ntabakuze’s Lead Counsel, Peter Erlinder, by refusing him audience before the Tribunal and instructs the Registrar, pursuant to Rule 46(C) of the Rules, to replace Peter Erlinder as Ntabakuze’s Lead Counsel as soon as possible.”
The chamber noted that Erlinder’s multiple efforts to avoid travelling to Arusha suggest that he had no intention of appearing at the appeals hearing since at least January 2011.
Efforts to contact the ICTR spokesperson Roland Amoussouga were futile as he could neither pick his calls nor reply his emails.
Erlinder has been on record for promoting Genocide denial, minimising and trivialising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi through his recorded speeches and publications.
Last year, Erlinder was arrested and charged with Genocide denial when he travelled to Rwanda.
The American attorney is part of a network of genocide deniers from the United States, Belgium, Holland and other countries where he has held conferences, aimed at promoting revisionism and denying the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.