US professor Peter Erlinder seeks bail for Rwanda genocide denial charges
Peter Erlinder was arrested last month as he was preparing a case for charges of Rwanda genocide-denial against opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire. The court will decide Thursday afternoon.
(Page 2 of 2)
“The real news was that ALL of the top Rwandan military officers, including the supposedly infamous Colonel Bagosora, were found not guilty of conspiracy or planning to commit genocide,” Erlinder wrote in a contentious article entitled, “Rwanda: No conspiracy, no genocide planning... no genocide?”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“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 'a genocide' at all?” he continues. “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?”
Erlinder frequently questions the use of the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of April to July 1994, and the Rwandan government has compiled evidence of his avoidance of the term to argue that he is in contravention of its nebulous law against genocide denial.
"There is strong evidence against Carl Peter Erlinder especially through his publications and conferences," reads an English version of the indictment against Erlinder obtained by the Monitor. "For instance, in his article published on February 2, 2009 he said that 'In early 2008, Spain indicted 40 leading members of Kagame government which followed a late 2006 French indictment charging Kagame and his followers with assassinating former Rwandan and Burundian Presidents, the crime that triggered 1994 civilians-on-civilians killings in Rwanda.' The fact that Carl Peter Erlinder said that what happened in Rwanda in 1994 were civilians-on-civilians killings is evidence that he denies genocide."
The American Bar Association, the US State Department, and a number of US congressmen have urged Rwanda to release Erlinder and to drop the charges. A congressional resolution reminded Rwanda’s government that its Constitution provides for free political expression, and also that the US government has provided nearly $1 billion in foreign assistance since 2000.
Yet those who have faced the Rwandan court system on political charges say that Kagame will remain dogged in his pursuit of those he regards as political enemies, including Erlinder and Ingabire.
“I don’t see how anyone can have a fair trial in Rwanda,” says retired Col. Patrick Karegeya, Kagame’s former head of external intelligence from 1994 until 2004, when he was jailed for insubordination and later fled into exile in South Africa. “There is no judicial system. OK, if you get caught stealing a chicken, that is one thing. But when it comes to political cases, which I think this is, even getting bail is very hard.”