ICTR denies US lawyer immunity from Rwanda prosecution

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] released a decision [text, PDF] last week that allows the Rwandan government to pursue charges against US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive]. In a reversal of a previous statement [JURIST report], the ICTR decided that Erlinger was charged for alleged actions committed outside the scope of his ICTR employment as a defense lawyer. Therefore, the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations [text, PDF], a treaty to which Rwanda is a party that prevents legal action of any kind against UN employees working in an official capacity, does not apply, and Erlinder is not immune from the prosecution. Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama praised the ICTR decision, emphasizing the country's reverence for the immunities treaty and announcing that Rwanda will continue with the prosecution [New Times report].

Erlinder returned to the US in June after spending 21 days in a Rwandan prison following his arrest [JURIST reports] on charges that he denied the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Upon his return, Erlinder stated his belief that had he not requested to contact the US embassy shortly before his detention, he would not have survived [Star Tribune report]. He also said that he was on a reported hit list made up of the names of opponents to Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile]. The High Court of Rwanda [GlobaLex backgrounder] a week earlier had released Erlinder on bail due to persisting medical problems from what Rwandan officials say was a suicide attempt [JURIST reports]. The court also required him to inform the court of his whereabouts and comply with future court orders.

 

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