News Release ~ 5/29/2010

National Criminal Defense Bar Condemns Arrest of U.S. Law Professor in Rwanda

Washington, DC (May 29, 2010) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) strongly condemns the arrest of American law professor Peter Erlinder in Kingali, Rwanda, yesterday. NACDL urges the Rwandan government and the U.S. Department of State to quickly resolve this mistake and free Prof. Erlinder.

Prof. Erlinder represents presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who was herself detained and released by Rwandan police earlier this week. Erlinder was arrested on a charge of “genocide ideology,” or genocide denial, a speech crime that has been condemned by humanitarian organizations as repressive. The law appears to conflict with Article 9 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Rwanda is a signatory.

NACDL condemns Erlinder’s arrest in the strongest possible terms. Government intimidation and interference with criminal defense lawyers is unacceptable in all its forms and it fundamentally undermines justice. The arrest of a criminal defense lawyer by the Rwandan government subverts orderly reconciliation and undermines the mission of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, which has been making fundamental contributions to international peace and justice in one of the most troubled regions of the African continent.

Peter Erlinder is a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a Law Professor Member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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