Saturday, May 29, 2010

Peter Erlinder arrested by Rwandan government, call for his release

Peter Erlinder is a long time people's attorney and former president of the
National Lawyers Guild. In addition to defending political prisoners here
and abroad he also represents prisoners and the victims of police misconduct
here in the US.

Peter has been arrested by the Rwandan government under that countries'
genocide law for defending unpopular defendants. The NLG press release is
attached. I am pasting it below in case the attachment is lost. Please take
a minute to CALL the numbers below, especially the state department and the
white house.

National Lawyers Guild Demands Immediate Release of Attorney Peter Erlinder

Vigorous Legal Advocate Arrested in Rwanda

For Immediate Release: May 28, 2010

Contact: David Gespass, 205-566-2530

Heidi Boghosian, 917-239-4999

New York-The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) demands the immediate release of
its former president, Professor Peter Erlinder, whom Rwandan Police arrested
early today on charges of "genocide ideology." He had traveled to Rwanda's
capital, Kigali, on May 23, to join the defense team of Rwandan presidential
candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Erlinder is reportedly being
interrogated at the Rwandan Police Force's Kacyiru headquarters.

"Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal
profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of
Umuhoza. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers
for defendants whom it dislikes and a government that seeks to prevent
lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted.
The entire National Lawyers Guild is honored by his membership and his
courageous advocacy," said David Gespass, the Guild's president.

Erlinder traveled to Kigali after attending the Second International
Criminal Defense Lawyers' Conference in Brussels. Since his arrival in
Kigali, the state-sponsored Rwandan media has been highly critical of

The Rwandan Parliament adopted the "Law Relating to the Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide Ideology" (Genocide Ideology Law), on July 23, 2008. It
defines genocide ideology broadly, requires no link to any genocidal act,
and can be used to include a wide range of legitimate forms of expression,
prohibiting speech protected by international conventions such as the
Genocide Convention of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights 1966.

Sarah Erlinder, Arizona attorney and NLG member said, "My father has made a
career defending unpopular people and unpopular speech-and is now being held
because of his representation of unpopular clients and analysis of an
historical narrative that the Kagame regime considers inconvenient. We can
help defend his rights now by drawing U.S. government and media attention to
his situation and holding the Rwandan government accountable for his

Before leaving for Brussels and then Kigali, Professor Erlinder notified the
U.S. State Department, his Minnesota Congressional Representative Betty
McCullom, Representative Keith Ellison, and Minnesota Senators Al Franken
and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Professor Erlinder is a professor of law at the William Mitchell College of
Law. He is a frequent litigator and consultant, often pro bono, in cases
involving the death penalty, civil rights, claims of government and police
misconduct, and criminal defense of political activists. He is also a
frequent news commentator. Erlinder was president of the National Lawyers
Guild from 1993-1997, and is a current board member of the NLG Foundation.
He has been a defense attorney at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for
Rwanda since 2003.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest
public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its
headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

Call and demand the immediate release of Professor Peter Erlinder:

Senator Al Franken

(202) 224-5641

Or send an email at

Senator Amy Klobuchar


Fax: 202-228-2186

Or send an email at

Representative Keith Ellison


Or send an email at

Representative Betty McCullom

(202) 225-6631

Fax: (202) 225-1968

Or send an email at


From: []
Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2010 11:30
Subject: [MLTF] Fwd: [necdiscussion] Free Peter Erlinder--Keep the


This is immediate and critical. Peter is in serious jeopardy in a Rwandan
jail. The embassy and State Department insist all they can do is provide
consular services and they cannot interfere in Rwanda's internal affairs. We
cannot and must not allow them to slide on this nonsense. They have already
been flooded with calls from NLG members and we need to keep it up. My
apologies if you have already seen this, but it warrants being reminded.

David Gespass


Sent: 5/29/2010 9:47:43 A.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: [necdiscussion] Free Peter Erlinder--Keep the Pressure On!

*The U.S. Embassy has **initially indicated that the case of Peter Erlinder,
former NLG president who was arrested this morning in Rwanda, is a "local

We do not believe that this is an intractable position!

It is critical that we mobilize a large number of people to call and fax
urging Peter Erlinder's release. We know nothing about the conditions under
which he is being held.*

Please contact your local representatives* and (urge them to) demand they
pressure to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda to release Peter immediately.

*Call the White House*:

*Call Secretary of State Hillary Clinton*

Secy of State Hillary Clinton
(202) 647-9572

State Department Main Switchboard
TTY:1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay Service)


Senator Al Franken: (202) 224-5641


Senator Amy Klobuchar: 202-224-3244

Fax: 202-228-2186

Email at

Representative Keith Ellison: 202-225-4755

Email at

Representative Betty McCullom: (202) 225-6631

Fax: (202) 225-1968

Email at

Hotline for American Travelers:
Public Communication Division:
Bureau of African affairs

Main fax number for bureau of African affairs: Fax: 202-647-6301

Johnny Carson - Africa foreign relations committee
Phone: 202-647-2530
Fax: 202-647-0838

Rwanda embassy (NY):

Telephone: +1 212 679 9010 or 1 212 679 9023
Fax: +1 212 679 9133

Stephen J. Rapp war crimes ambassador
Phone: 202-647-6051
Fax: 202-736-4495

Susan Rice, US AMB to the UN
Accredited Journalists: 212-415-4050
Opinion & Comment line: 212-415-4062
Fax: 212-415-4053

Rwanda Mission to the UN in USA:
phone: +1 212 679 9010 or 1 212 679 9023
Fax: +1 212 679 9133

Amb. James Kimonyo
1714 New Hampshire NW
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-232-2882

Fax: 202-232-4544

1 comment:

Ruta R said...

Please, do not mislead people. He is jailed not for exercising his profession of a defense lawyer, but for denying the 1994 genocide of Rwandan Tutsis. He claims against facts verifiable on the ground that it was simply a civil war and was never planned. It is a shame for lawyers to support genocide denialism and misrepresent facts for that end. Just check out his own statement in this video: