Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga and a spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Wednesday reaffirmed their cooperation [press release] in the prosecution of crimes relating to the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], in which nearly 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, were killed. Ngoga reiterated Rwanda's commitment to honoring its obligations under the Memorandum of Understanding [materials]. The cooperation between the Rwandan government and the ICTR was illustrated last month when the ICTR transferred the cases [press release; JURIST report] of 25 suspects to the Rwandan authorities. The suspects, who have been investigated but not yet indicted by the ICTR, are believed to be in hiding abroad. Ngoga also assured ICTR defense lawyers that they can work in Rwanda without fear of interference by authorities. He commented specifically on the case of US lawyer and JURIST forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive] who was arrested and detained [JURIST report] in Rwanda on charges of genocide denial. Ngoga stated that Erlinder's arrest was unrelated to his work with the ICTR and that it will have no effect on other ICTR defense lawyers working in the country.
Last month, ICTR defense lawyers released a statement [text] calling for Erlinder's release [JURIST report] and threatening to boycott other ICTR trials until international authorities worked to obtain Erlinder's release and to guarantee immunity for "every person engaged in seeking truth before any international or domestic jurisdiction." Erlinder was in Rwanda to prepare his defense of opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website], who was arrested in April [JURIST report] on similar charges. Erlinder pleaded not guilty [JURIST report], but was deemed a flight risk [AFP report] and denied bail, despite his claim that he needed to return to the US for medical treatment following what Rwandan officials say was a suicide attempt [JURIST reports]. Rwandan authorities ultimately reversed their decision, and Erlinder was released on bail [JURIST report]. He returned to the US last month [JURIST report], after agreeing to the terms of his release set by the Rwandan court.