RWANDA:U.S. Lawyers Support Rwandan Opposition Leader Victoire Umuhoza.

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U.S. Lawyers Support Rwandan Opposition Leader Victoire Umuhoza.

April 22, 2010


petererlinder.jpgIngabire-vict.jpgRwandan opposition presidential candidate Madame Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza was released on bail one day after being jailed by the Kagame-led government of Rwanda. President Paul Kagame, her would-be opponent in an apparent re-run of the 2003 sham “elections” that brought him to power with 95% of the vote, when opposition parties were outlawed and opposition candidates jailed or exiled, according to EU election monitors and later confirmed by Human Rights Watch and the British Commonwealth Human Rights Institute.

According to Ingabire’s U.S. lawyer Peter Erlinder, “Ingabire was arrested on trumped-up, political thought-crimes, including: association with a terrorist group, propagating the genocide ideology, genocide denial, revisionism and divisionism, all arising from the “crime” of publicly objecting to the Kagame military dictatorship, and Kagame’s version of the Rwandan history.“

Peter Erlinder is a Professor of Constitutional Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law at Wm. Mitchell College of Law, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger’s Minnesota alma mater. Mr. Erlinder is also the Lead Defense Counsel in the Military-1 trial at the UN Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). This case found all four former top military leaders acquitted of conspiring and/or planning to commit genocide or any other crimes. The highest-ranking defendant was acquitted of all charges on December 18, 2008. Mr. Erlinder is also President of ICTR-ADAD (Association des Avocats de la Defense), past-President of the National Lawyers Guild, NY, and Director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute in St. Paul, MN.

According to Erlinder, “The arrest of Madame Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in the run-up to the 2010 election is a carbon copy of Kagame’s tactics in 2003 when all serious political challengers were jailed or expelled from the country, including former Kagame loyalists like former Rwandan President and Prime Minister Pasteur Bizimungu and Faustin Twagiramungu. In 2003, Kagame declared all opposition political parties illegally divisionist, which he has recently repeated with Rwanda’s Green Party and Madame Ingabire’s UDF-Inkingi…” Kagame pioneered the same election tactics in Rwanda that earned international condemnation for Zimbabwe’s Mugabe.”

Hundreds of Hutu and Tutsi former supporters of President Kagame have gone into exile in the recent past, including: former Speaker of the Rwandan Parliament, Mr. Joseph Sebarenzi; the Rwandan Ambassador to the Netherlands (who granted Mrs. Ingabire’s visa to return to Rwanda in January); numerous senior military officers and political figures, as well as Mr. Paul Rusesabagina, the man portrayed by Don Cheadle in the movie Hotel Rwanda.

In late February 2010 notes reported to reflect Kagame’s meeting with Rwandan ambassadors (who had not yet gone into exile) targeted seven non-Rwandan lawyers, journalists and academics for discrediting or assassination. Erlinder’s name was one of those on the list. Erlinder expressed concerns for his own safety when he travels to Rwanda to defend Madame Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. With this history we all have to take Kagame’s threat seriously. The Ingabire Defense Team insists that: “the Obama administration; President Dennis Byron of the UN Rwanda Tribunal and the Kagame government provide safe-passage guarantees for Madame Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and all defense team members, while we are defending democratic principles and human rights in Rwanda.”

Recently, U.S. political scientists Dr. Alan Stam of the University of Michigan and Dr. Christian Davenport of the University of Notre Dame documented all reported crimes committed in Rwanda during 1994 and concluded that both warring sides committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now that Mrs. Ingabire has been released, Mr. Erlinder insists that President Kagame’s Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama ensure respect for democratic principles and the Rule of Law, by:

(a) the immediate return of all computers, political and/or personal documents and all other items seized from Mrs. Ingabire’s home;

(b) removal of all restrictions on Mrs. Ingabire’s ability to campaign freely among the Rwandan people, including the return of her passport and elimination of police reporting requirements;

(c) full-recognition and registration of her political party, the UDF-Inkingi, and all other Rwandan opposition political parties;

(d) full access to the press and the media and an end to all intimidation tactics against opposition political activities;

(e) safe passage for all members of Mrs. Ingabire’s defense team


The International Humanitarian Law Institute, St. Paul, Mn. USA
Director, Prof. Peter Erlinder,
Assoc. Director, Gena Bergland
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