By Gerald Mbanda
Guardian on Sunday 27th March 2011
American Law Professor Peter Erlinder on March 7th, 2011, announced the publication of a book length article in the DePaul University Law School Journal for social Justice today: The United Nations Ad Hoc Tribunal for Rwanda: International Justice or Judicially-Constructed Victors’ Impunity.
On reading the article, one realizes that the Law Professor is not writing about judicial matters as expected of a Law College journal for which he wrote; but simply engaged in political propaganda and misinformation, meant to tarnish the image of Rwanda as a country and that of President Paul Kagame.
The publication displays outright intellectual dishonesty where Prof. Erlinder presents long passages of quotations from biased authors and sources deliberately portraying a calculated conspiracy to re-write the history of Rwanda. His work displays an attitude of arrogance, deceit, disrespect of the Rwandan people in general and boastful mockery of the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Who is Prof. Peter Erlinder?
He is an American Law Professor at the William Mitchell College of law in Saint Paul Minnesota- USA. His name attracted media attention in May 2010, when he was arrested in Rwanda where he had gone with intentions to defend Victoria Ingabire, a Rwandan who had returned from the Netherlands with political ambitions.
From day one of her return to Rwanda, Ingabire’s utterances and messages on her website, revealed the character of a person promoting ethnic divisions, propagating the genocide ideology and trivializing the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Prof. Erlinder’s publication is proof enough that he shares the same ideology with the client he intended to defend. Evidence was also found that Ingabire was collaborating with FDRL, a terrorist organization operating in eastern DRC with intentions to destabilize Rwanda. Before venturing into Rwanda, the American Law Professor had been working since 2003, as a lead defense counsel for several Rwandan genocide suspects at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) at Arusha-Tanzania.
He writes, in his publications that the killings in Rwanda in 1994, did not amount to genocide but simply communal violence! Back in his home country, Prof. Peter Erlinder, is known as a man of controversies, who is driven by greed to make money at all costs hiding behind a smoke screen of a human rights defender. His defense for a sex offender James Poole in 2003, and that of a cop killer A.C. Ford in the 1990s, are just an eye opener to the character of the Law Professor.
His arrogance, lies and distortion of facts.
In his publication, Prof. Erlinder is not ashamed to tell lies that there was another reason of his arrest. , “….I finally learned that my “crime” had been earning the acquittal of my U.N.Tribunal client through original U.N. documents that showed the defeated army had not conspired to commit a “long-planned genocide,” as Kagame has claimed , and then writing articles about the meaning of the acquittal.
Erlinder was not the first defense lawyer from ICTR to visit Rwanda. Many others had visited for years before him and none was questioned for defending high level genocide suspects. As a Law Professor, whose intention in Rwanda was to defend a client accused among others of genocide related cases, Erlinder came to Rwanda well aware of the provisions of the Rwandan Laws regarding minimizing and denial of the genocide against the Tutsi. Being a genocide denier and negating the Tutsi genocide in his speeches and publications, he knew very well that his acts are punishable under Rwandan laws.
However, arrogant as he showed himself to be, Peter Erlinder felt that a small and poor country like Rwanda, could not dare touch an American Law Professor, leave alone sending him to jail. What is evident is that his greed to make quick and hot money as mentioned above and his arrogance were the driving factors that blocked his reasoning and judgment to venture in Rwanda.
Another lie in his publication is that he had immunity from prosecution by virtual of his being an ICTR defense counsel, while the fact is that as a defense counsel, he does not enjoy immunity privilege on matters concerning his statements and publications. It is applicable only when performing ICTR related duties. After his release on humanitarian grounds, Erlinder does not show any least form of remorse, but brags that his release was due to worldwide pressure.
Prof. Erlinder and the Military Trial
He was the lead defense counsel in what was named the military trial-I at the ICTR case no. ICTR-98-41-T, and defended the likes of Colonel Bagosora, Major Ntabakuze and others, where the top military EXFAR military officers were acquitted by the Tribunal on the charge of conspiracy and planning to commit genocide. The learned Professor boasts of the achievement in his publications and goes on to say:…. “This raises the more profound question: If there was no conspiracy and no planning to kill ethnic (i.e Tutsi) civilians, can the tragedy that engulfed Rwanda properly be called genocide’ at all? Or, was it closer to a case of civilians being caught up in war-time violence, like the Eastern Front in WWII, rather than the planned behind the- lines killings in Nazi death camps?…” This is a mockery to the victims and survivors of the genocide and on the other hand, a shallow analysis and reasoning not expected of a law Professor of his caliber. It does not require one to be a law expert to know that acquittal in courts of law does not necessarily mean that the accused is innocent or that the acquittal stands for the truth.
The Biblical trial of Jesus and his crucifixion around 30AD, the execution of Socrates in 399BC and the imprisonment of Galileo in 1633, are just some of the early notable famous trials that put criminal justice to challenge. Prof. Erlinder I am sure knows very well that since man’s society became complex, miscarriage of justice is not a new phenomenon and this may result from prosecutorial error, perjured testimony, erroneous eyewitness testimony etc.
The case in point, the military trial I, at the ICTR is one typical example of a shocking miscarriage of Justice and an indictment of the way criminal Justice operates. Despite Prof. Erlinder’s chest thumping for a justice- miscarriage victory, the same Tribunal has testimonies of people like General Romeo Dallaire who was the UN force commander in Rwanda before and during the genocide, which indicate the genocide was planned long before April 1994.
In his book; Shake Hands with The Devil, the Canadian born military General laments how the UN ignored his warnings of the build-up to an imminent bloodshed and the reluctance to give him more forces to deal with the threat. Significant on record, showing conspiracy and planning to commit genocide is also the testimony of Jean Kambanda, installed as the Prime minister of the transitional government after the death of Habyarimana, who confessed in 1998, in ICTR case no. ICTR 97-23-S, to all crimes of genocide including conspiracy and planning to commit genocide; and indeed the Mutsinzi Report, (2010), provides a detailed account. In America where Prof. Erlinder comes from, examples of miscarriage of justice are inexhaustible from time immemorial.
Trials dating as early as 1770 like the Boston Massacre, The Dakota Conflict trials in 1862, the much publicized O.J Simpson trial for the murder of his wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994 that earned a tag name of “The trial of the Century” are some of the cases in point. Talk of wrongful imprisonments and executions? All these are well documented and available on the book shelves of the law Professor.
Prof. Erlinder-organiser of genocide deniers
The law Professor by his own admission in the DePaul Journal knew nothing about Rwanda in 2003, when he signed up for the job as a defense counsel at the ICTR. It implies therefore, that he had to go through a crash program to know about Rwanda with a bias meant to protect his clients.
It gets disturbing to see that at the moment, his publications reflect a man who wants to depict himself as an expert on all aspects of Rwanda’s existence. As would have been in his law profession, the learned Peter Erlinder has not forgotten that he should disqualify himself from any aspect of judging Rwanda and its leadership because he is an interested party on a different side.
This is another example of his dishonesty and ill intentioned meddling in social, political and historical perspectives of the country. Before his provocative trip to Rwanda, Prof. Erlinder met and had several meetings with another genocide denier in Brussels Paul Rusesabagina who prominently features on the list of people who fund a terrorist organization- FDR, and this is the man Prof. Erlinder relies on as a source of credible information on Rwanda! In the US, where Prof. Erlinder comes from, FDRL is listed among known terrorist organizations. The French Judge Bruguiere who came up with false and politically motivated indictment against Rwandan leaders is another figure in the American law Professor’s club.
Though Erlinder is well aware that such indictments presented no truth what so ever, and have since been withdrawn for lack of evidence and substance, he writes in his law journal that the ‘indictments’ were evidence of war crimes allegations against the Rwandan leaders! The concocted indictments were fabricated by genocide deniers who are also proponents of the ‘double genocide theory’. Prof. Erlinder narrates how Bruguiere and Carla Del Ponte are long time friends. What is known is that French Judge Bruguiere tried to push his trumped up infamous indictments of the Rwandan leaders to the UN but miserably failed because there was no single substance of evidence but naked rumors.
The French Judge then tried another trick of sneaking his rejected files into the UN system through the back door. He forwarded the files to his friend long time friend Carla Dela Ponte who was at the ICTR, leading to a boomerang on their evil project that cost Dela Ponte her job.
Why did Prof. Erlinder write such a document on Rwanda at this time?
Through handsome monetary gains as a defense counsel at the ICTR for Rwandans accused of orchestrating the 1994 genocide, the American law Professor has become a true convert by sharing the same ideology with his clients.
It is common knowledge that whenever the genocide commemoration month of April is approaching, individual genocide deniers and organizations supporting them start producing documents like the one by Erlinder meant to divert attention.
Secondly, the law professor is a worried man because the ICTR is soon shutting down its doors and he will miss out on the easy huge sums of UN money, and cannot imagine going back to the lecture halls for a few hard earned dollars.
Even though the ICTR is likely to phase out soon, there are other genocide suspects facing trials in other countries around the world, and these are Peter Erlinder’s next target of clients.
Infact, he is more than certain of winning the contract, because Paul Rusesabagina as the local coordinator of genocide deniers is the one who recommended Erlinder to Victoria Ingabire. Prof. Erlinder conveniently uses the military trial acquittal as a platform to advertise himself through his publications.
People like Prof. Peter Erlinder and his associates who act as prophets of doom for Rwanda cannot get far. Their propaganda will not stop Rwanda from pursuing its vision towards achieving sustainable Political, social and economic development. Actions speak better than words.
Gerald Mbanda is the first Secretary Rwanda High Commission- Nairobi. He filed this article to The Guardian on Sunday as part of a reaction to what the American lawyer has written about the Rwandan government. firstname.lastname@example.org