Statement by the President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, Being Concerned with the Arrest of a Defense Counsel of the Ictr and Urging His Immediate Realease
Peter Erlinder, a lawyer of the United States of America (the “USA”), was placed under arrest on May 28, 2010, in Kigali, the capital of the Republic of Rwanda, by Rwandan police authorities. It is reported that the charges of the arrest are denial and gross minimization of genocide under the "Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology." Condemning the arrest, international lawyers’ associations and national bar associations released statements to criticize the arrest and to urge the immediate release of Mr. Erlinder.
Mr. Erlinder, a law college professor in the USA, has worked as a defense counsel before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and now serves as president of the independent counsel association of the defense counsels of the ICTR. It is reported that he was arrested while staying in Kigali to represent a politician, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, an opposition candidate for the Presidency of Rwanda to current President Kagame. The politician in question is also reported to have been arrested in April, facing similar charges.
The “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers”(1990) adopted by the Eighth Crime Prevention Congress of the United Nations (the “UN”) guarantee lawyers’ activities, providing “Lawyers shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional appearances before a court, tribunal or other legal or administrative authority.” The Basic Principles also request that lawyers’ functions shall not be identified with their clients' causes and that governmental authorities should ensure the safeguarding of lawyers’ due functions from various sanctions. Therefore, the arrest of lawyer Erlinder, should its grounds be based on his activities as a counsel before the ICTR or in Rwanda, is not only in clear violation of the Basic Principles, but also creates a serious situation in which human rights advocacy by lawyers becomes impossible.
It is a prerequisite to maintaining the rule of law that lawyers shall not be posed any disadvantages by authorities or shall not be harmed by anybody for fulfilling their due functions.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations, due to the grounds stated above, is deeply concerned about the arrest of lawyer Erlinder by the Rwandan authorities, and urges their government to release him immediately. At the same time, the JFBA requests all governments concerned, including that of the USA, and the UN administrating the ICTR, to take actions to ensure the release of the lawyer in question.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations