Source : AfrobeatRadio
Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha Tanzania have removed Peter Erlinder, law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota, and defense counsel for a major Rwandan genocide suspect, Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze. Mr. Erlinder was removed because he refused to continue the case. Mr. Erlinder said he did not appear because he feared his life would be in danger from the Rwandan government. Tribunal spokesman, Roland Amoussouga, called Mr. Erlinder’s claims an “excuse” and his conduct “unprofessional.” “He is no longer a counselor in the tribunal here,” and that “He has no standing.”
AfrobeatRadio’s Wuyi Jacobs spoke to Peter Erlinder:
AR/Wuyi Jacobs: How would you responds to the ICTR sanctions on you for not returning to Arusha, Tanzania?
Peter Erlinder: Well, I believe that returning to Arusha puts my life in danger or my liberty at danger and I asked for security, and assurances from the Rwanda government that my safety will be protected through the United Nations, and, they weren’t able to provide me with that. But even if I had been provided with that, I continue to suffer psychological reactions to my detention in Rwanda, and I am not sure I could’ve functioned well as lawyer for my client.
I requested that the tribunal allow me to appear for the four hours, this is only four hours after eight years of this trial, keep in mind, to allow me make my final argument by video. The tribunal has allowed many witnesses to appear by video. It’s a very common thing. Or to allow me to make the arguement in the Hague, which is where the Appeals chamber is based. They denied that, insisted that I appear in person, which is, I think putting my life at risk.
They also denied postponing the hearing until June, which is when my co-counsel, who doesn’t face the same threats that I do, could have been able to make the arguement. He had been ill, and had actually been in an accident. Or to allow me to replace him with another lawyer who would also not be under threat. So it’s not just a question of my not appearing there, it’s the court not being willing to accept any of the other alternatives that will not require me to place my life at risk.
I also have to add, that my client waived my appearance at the hearing and was willing to go forward himself because he’s been found not guilty of fully ninety-five percent of the charges against him, and there are four rather small incidents remaining in the case. We’ve had them fully briefed. He shouldn’t have been convicted of them because they’re incidents that were not charged in the indictment. And he waived my presence at the hearing and was prepared to go forward himself, but the chamber will not permit him to do so.
AR: What is the impact of this sanction on the case?
Peter Erlinder: The impact on the case is likely not to be very much at all. It’s, as I mention, a four hour oral argument and for relatively minor issues after eight years of trial.