Appeal to the international community to stand on the side of Rwandans

By Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

The imprisoned leader of FDU-Inkingi, a Rwandan political party of the opposition, made the following appeal last year when Peter Erlinder, her defence lawyer, was released from Paul Kagame’s prison in Rwanda. It was after a relentless pressure from different authorities particularly in US, lawyers’ associations, mainstream media, and ordinary people around the world that the American lawyer found his freedom. Now that Victoire Ingabire is herself in prison since October 14th, 2010 where she cannot communicate with the outside world, because she has been denied visits for already eleven weeks, her appeal is more relevant than ever.

“We are very pleased that an innocent person, who has committed himself for the defense of human rights and due process of law at the expense of his own life, is released from the inhumane conditions of a Rwandan jail. This is a result of relentless pressure on the regime. We are impressed by the struggle of his family, ordinary citizens, friends, scholars, colleagues, civil associations, journalists, human rights bodies, congressmen and senators for the work they did around the clock.

We wish to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to his family for courageously bearing this ordeal and doing everything possible to bring the matter to the attention of the US Government and the United Nations.

It is an open secret that his arrest was against all norms of judicial process. He cannot be held responsible for his expressed or written views in the defense of his clients. Once again the Rwandan judicial system has clearly demonstrated what the world has failed to believe for a long time: that there is no rule of law in Rwanda.

The UN and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have established that the arrest and subsequent detention of Peter Erlinder were in violation of his immunity from legal process at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where he is a lead defense council. This is raising up again serious questions on the capacity of the current regime to deal with ICTR cases or to provide fair justice to many Rwandan suspects held in different countries.

The arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder, a citizen of the United States whose government is a major ally of the Government of Rwanda and a person whose professional rights and credentials are covered by international conventions, clearly shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is for a Rwandan to get justice in Rwanda. This is particularly difficult for any person like myself attempting to challenge President Paul Kagame in an election. The arrest of my lawyer is also a deterrent against anyone who tries to defend me.

The contradicting declarations of the government, the chief prosecutor, and the police during the detention of Peter Erlinder have also highlighted how justice is done in Rwanda: fabrication of evidence, intrigue, manipulative tactics and unfairness.

We are appealing to the voices that have stood for Professor Peter Erlinder to continue to be on the side of Rwandans that Peter Erlinder has been standing and fighting for in order to get to the root causes of the Rwandan crisis.”

Source: Digital Journal

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