Erlinder’s arrest: justice or politics?

16 June 2010 by Emmanuel Munyarukumbuzi & Linawati Sidharto

While the arrest of US lawyer Peter Erlinder in Rwanda for genocide denial three weeks ago has sparked international outcry, Kigali stands by its actions and denies that it is acting on political grounds.

“There has been a lot of theatrics surrounding this case, but genocide ideology laws are not about politics or symbolism, and revisionists and ideologues who traffic in genocide denial will be prosecuted and imprisoned,” says Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.

Peter Erlinder, who is one of the defence lawyers at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), is the first foreigner accused under Rwanda’s 2008 genocide ideology law.

After the arrest, Rwandan police spokesman Eric Kayingare, said that Erlinder was accused of “denying the genocide” and “negationism” from statements he had made at the ICTR, as well as “in his books, in publications,” as quoted by the New York Times.

Erlinder, a law professor at the US’ William Mitchell College of Law, was detained on May 28 as he came to Rwanda to defend opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, head of the United Democratic Forces movement. She was arrested in April under accusations of genocide denial and belonging to a terrorist organisation .

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