Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch
Welcome to Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Prof.Peter Erlinder-Rwandan officials wanted me to "disappear."
Erlinder-Rwandan officials wanted me to "disappear."
By STEVE KARNOWSKI
A Minnesota law professor said Wednesday he believes Rwandan authorities intended to make him disappear and never planned to prosecute him on allegations that he minimized the country's 1994 genocide.
Peter Erlinder, a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law, said he believes no one would have learned of his fate if he hadn't been able to summon a U.S. embassy official to his hotel when he was arrested May 28. He said nobody at the embassy knew he was still in Rwanda because airline records somehow had been altered to show he had left the morning before.
He said he owes his life to thousands of people around the world who demanded his release after word got out. He returned home Tuesday after about three weeks in custody.
The professor spoke at the law school in what had been billed as a briefing for reporters, but shaped up more as a 35-minute lecture on his ordeal, as well as recent Rwandan history. He drew applause from supporters, faculty, staff and students who attended.
Erlinder, who had gone to Rwanda to help defend an opposition presidential candidate, ran afoul of authorities because he disputes the official version of what happened in 1994. He has not been formally charged and was released on medical grounds late last week. Rwandan authorities said their investigation would continue.
Asked if he stood by his pledge to return to Rwanda if required to do so, Erlinder chose his words carefully. If the Rwandan authorities ask him to return, he said, he expects the United Nations would assert his immunity from prosecution.
"I'll follow the law. You can make of it what you will. And my thinking is the law of the U.N. is I have immunity from prosecution," he told The Associated Press afterward, adding that he had no idea how the international legal process might play out.
Erlinder has been involved with Rwanda since 2003 through his work as a defense lawyer with the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which was created by the U.N. Security Council to prosecute those accused of responsibility for the genocide. Tribunal authorities last week said he should have diplomatic immunity.
The generally accepted narrative of the genocide holds that roughly 800,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus, were slain by extremist Hutus over 100 days as part of a planned massacre. The mass killings followed the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane in April 1994.
Erlinder said he has never denied that there was a genocide against Tutsis. But he said U.N. and U.S. documents he obtained through his work, and testimony before the tribunal, show that the official version is wrong.
For example, he said, killings by Hutus of Hutus who were protecting Tutsis would not be genocide under the U.N. definition, but may count as war crimes or crimes against humanity. He also said the tribunal ruled last year there was insufficient evidence to support the view that the genocide was a conspiracy planned long in advance. And he said other university researchers have concluded that more Hutus than Tutsis may have been slain.
Erlinder urged people to read the documents that led to his conclusions, which he posted on the Internet though his Rwanda Documents Project.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who's also a government spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. The press officer at the Rwandan embassy in Washington was out of town and unreachable, a man answering the phone there said Wednesday.
But Rwandan authorities have likened their laws against genocide denial to Germany's laws against Holocaust denial and defended them as necessary for keeping the peace.
Erlinder said reconciliation is possible in Rwanda despite what he contends is a suppression of history to benefit those in power. He suggested a process along the lines of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the atrocities of the apartheid era and offered amnesty to those who confessed and demonstrated remorse.
"If there is going to be peace in central Africa, then it has to be done the way that the South Africans figured out, to accept responsibility for wrongs on both sides," he said.
Editor's Note: If Mr. Erlinder did disappear, I can tell you exactly where they would find him. He would have been thrown into URWABAYANGA it is a big cave found in Butare city where many victims of RPF were thrown click here to see a list of Hutus killed by RPF through kidnapping. His ashes would be scattered on the lake at Kamiranzovu. The Rwandans have a saying for such dissapearances. It roughly translates to, "A white man has been killed by a python." When the RPF regime came after me in 2006, a Rwandan handler who apparently was working for the DMI tried to lure me to a village in area right near there, but I knew what fate was awaiting due to prior knowledge of what goes on there, so I declined the offer.