Thursday, June 3, 2010

William Mitchell School of Law Gets Some "Free" Publicity

at the expense of its Constitutional Law Professor, Peter Erlinder.  Peter Erlinder has been arrested in Rwanda for denying the 1994 genocide in that country:

"He's someone who denies the genocide in his writings and his speeches. Worse than that he has become an organizer of genocide deniers," Rwanda's Public Prosecutor Martin Ngoga told AFP. "If negating (the Tutsi genocide) is not punished in his country, it is punished in Rwanda. And when he came here he knew that."
From what I can tell, he is merely being a zealous advocate to a former Rwandan Army Commander who is being accused of the Tutsi genocide.  Perhaps, he took his role too far?  
He has become infamous for representing the bad guy, but I guess that is what criminal defense is much of the time.  He defended cop killer, A.C. Ford, suspected Al-Qaeda associates and sex offenders, but this might be his last.  

He has already attempted suicide while in the Rwandan jail.  I hope he remains patient while the American Embassy attempts to secure his release.  I hope they are trying to secure his release.  Who knows.  Things must be bad for him to call it a day.  The William Mitchell School of Law Professors are chiming in with their doubts regarding his propensity to take his own life:

Fellow professors at William Mitchell College of Law, in St. Paul, Minnesota, unanimously rejected the idea Erlinder might commit suicide.
"I have known him since 1982, and I cannot imagine a scenario in which he would ever take such a course of action...," Phebe Haugen told AFP.
"I suspect and fear that the Rwandan government is trying to construct a narrative that might explain Erlinder's demise," Associate Professor of Law Mark A. Edwards said.
"I know of no one who knows Peter who believes that he would do such a thing," another professor, Douglas R. Heidenreich said.
"Like Professor Edwards, we are worried that this may be the prelude to an even more serious effort by Rwandan authorities to stifle or even silence a brave lawyer who advocates for an unpopular client."
I pray for the guy in any event. It was stupid to step foot on foreign soil and try to navigate their legal system.  But I hope he doesn't lose his life over it.


  1. I'm torn on this one.

    On the one hand, I strongly believe that all criminal defendants are entitled to zealous and competent representation, as well as being given a fair trial.

    On the other hand, I can't think of anything more reprehensible than being a Rwandan genocide denier (other than being a Holocaust denier).

  2. Maybe he needs to get into a role to defend? I, for example, have to like my client to defend him/her. I have to believe in their case. If I don't, I can't do it. So if he thinks that there was in fact a genocide, maybe he can't be a zealous advocate.

  3. This isn't really about genocide denial in the same sense as it would be if David Irving were imprisoned in Austria or France for denying the Holocaust. This is about the RPF, how they came to power, the role they played during the genocide, and the nature of Kagame's regime.

  4. The imprisonment of David Irving was awful and a heinous example of Orwellian thoughtcrime. "Holocaust" "denial" is Orwellian newspeak to imprison those who reasonably come to a conclusion about the method and numbers of genocide based on the evidence available. It has nothing to do with hatred.



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