For Immediate Release
Heidi Boghosian 212-679-5100, ext. 11,
Gena Berglund 651-208-7964
Masako Usui, The Wife of Detained ICTR defense attorney, Peter Erlinder, Will Speak with UN Security Council Members this Week
ST. PAUL, MN - Masako Usui, the wife of the U.S. Professor and Attorney Peter Erlinder,
is traveling to New York City this week on a mission to visit United
Nations Security Council members. Her husband, Peter Erlinder was
arrested by Rwanda Police in Kigali on May 28, 2010. She plans to ask
for their assistance in urging Rwanda to free Professor Erlinder and
drop all charges.
Professor Erlinder is a law professor at William Mitchell College of
Law, lead defense attorney for the United Nations International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (I.C.T.R.), and President of the I.C.T.R.
defense lawyers association. The I.C.T.R. which was set up by the United
Nations Security Council in 1994 to prosecute war criminal for events
that happened in 1994.
Erlinder faces charges of genocidal ideology and threatening Rwandan
national security. These charges are directly related to the vigorous
defense of his clients. According to the Rwanda prosecutor and court,
the basis for the charges against him are that he:
Successfully proved to the I.C.T.R. that the genocide had not been
planned or executed by the persons he represented, Aloys Ntabakuze.
wrote, outside of Rwanda, in defense of his clients through articles,
press releases and open letters to public officials calling for a deeper
examination of the events that happened in 1994 and suggests that there
could be a different narrative based on factual evidence.
Filed a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Paul Kagame in the
Oklahoma Federal court under the Alien Tort Claims Act on behalf of his
client, Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of the former Rwandan president.
continues to be held, now in Kigali Central Prison, after he received a
judgment on Monday, June 7, 2010, denying him bail or any type of
The spokesman of “United Nations-backed tribunal for Rwanda," Roland
Amoussouga, stated, “I.C.T.R. will not allow anyone to be prosecuted
for the work that it has done for it.” Josh Kron, American Lawyer Denied
Bail in Rwanda (New York Times, June 13, 2010).
The same New York Times article also reported, “Despite assurances
from Rwanda that Mr. Erlinder was not arrested for his work at the
tribunal, officials at the tribunal say they also believe there is a
connection. They have asked Rwanda for clarification and may bring the
case in front of the United Nations Security Council."
Among many human rights and legal organizations that have called for
Erlinder’s release, the American Bar Association points to the U.N.
Basic Principals on the Role of Lawyers, which state that lawyers “shall
not be identified with their clients or their client's causes as a
result of discharging their functions” and that “governments shall
ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their functions without
intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper influence.” These
principals also provided that “lawyers like other citizens are entitled
to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly.”
The International Criminal Defense Attorneys Association (ICDAA)
denounced and condemned Peter Erlinder’s continued detention in the
strongest possible terms and urged all concerned to demand his immediate
In a joint statement to the court and the UN security council, many
defense lawyers have demanded Erlinder's immediate release: "We hereby
resolve to postpone all activities, other than those which strictly
conserve the interests of our mandates, until such time as the minimum
conditions of the normal exercise of our missions have been restored by
the removal of threats," the statement says. 1
This continued detention has prompted other defense lawyers at the
ICTR to refuse to participate in proceedings. Five defense teams before
the ICTR have filed motions saying it was too dangerous to represent an
accused, ICTR responded by launching contempt proceedings against
another American defense lawyer, Peter Robinson, when Robinson stated
his intention to withdraw from the case due to Erlinder's detention. 2