Peter Erlinder Jailed by One of the Major Genocidaires of Our Era
Edward S. Herman and David Peterson 
The May 28 arrest of the
For one thing, Kagame does not like free elections, and he has avoided or emasculated them assiduously. Erlinder arrived in Kigali on May 23 to take up the legal representation of Victoire Ingabire, a Hutu expatriate who had spent the past 16 years in The Netherlands, but who immediately upon her return to Rwanda in January was regarded as the leading opposition figure, though her United Democratic Forces hadn’t been able to register as an official party. The Kagame regime arrested her on April 21, and charged her with "association with a terrorist group; propagating genocide ideology; negationism and ethnic divisionism." As 2010 is an election year in
The official August 25 presidential vote that year reported 94% for Kagame. In a country whose population then, as now, as at the start of 1994, was majority Hutu by roughly a 6-to-1 margin over the Tutsi, only Kagame’s intimidation and repression of Rwanda’s civil society, and his election-rigging, could have produced a result like this. Thus when Peter Erlinder spoke in late April about the arrest of Victoire Ingabire as a "carbon-copy of Kagame’s tactics in 2003, when all serious political challengers were jailed or driven from the country," and when he likened the charges against her (and now against himself as well) to "trumped-up political thought-crimes…arising from the ‘crime’ of publicly objecting to the Kagame military dictatorship and Kagame’s version of Rwandan civil war history," this was what he meant.
The Arusha Accords of August 1993 had stipulated that national elections be held in Rwanda by no later than 1995, but this was precluded by the military takeover of Rwanda by Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in April-July 1994, which allowed the minority Tutsi faction (less than 15 percent) to seize power by force.
The allegation of “genocide denial” has been an important instrument of Kagame’s rule, with potentially rival politicians, or in fact any Kagame target, so accused and pushed out of the way. According to news accounts during the first 24 hours after his arrest, Erlinder, a lead defense counsel before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and a former president of the National Lawyers Guild in New York, "is being charged with denying the Rwandan genocide and was being interrogated…at police headquarters in the capital, Kigali….A police spokesman, Eric Kayingare, said that Mr. Erlinder was accused of ‘denying the genocide’ and ‘negationism’ from statements he had made at the tribunal in Arusha, as well as ‘in his books, in publications’."
Of course, this is straight out of Kafka, as a compelling case can be made that Kagame and his RPF were the major genocidaires in
One of Erlinder’s notable documentary discoveries is an internal memorandum drafted in September 1994 for the eyes of then-U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in which it was reported that a UN team on the ground in Rwanda "concluded that a pattern of killing had emerged" there, the "[RPF] and Tutsi civilian surrogates [killing] 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the [RPF] accounting for 95% of the killing." This memorandum added that the UN team "speculated that the purpose of the killing was a campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to clear certain areas in the south of
We may recall that the reported (but contested) massacre of 8,000 military-aged men at Srebrenica in July 1995 led to genocide charges, imprisonment of many Serb officials and military personnel, and huge indignation in the West. Yet, here is an internal U.S. document alleging "10,000 or more Hutu civilians" butchered per month by Kagame’s forces to cleanse the ground for Tutsi resettlement—and not only is the leading butcher not imprisoned, but his regime continues to bathe in Western support and adulation, and can get away with charging the man who helped expose his crimes with “genocide denial”!
Consider also the five following material facts:
1. The “triggering event” in the mass killings known as the "Rwandan genocide" was the shooting down of the Falcon-50 jet carrying then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, then-Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, and ten others on its approach to the
2. The important U.S. analysts Christian Davenport and Allan Stam also concluded that more Hutu than Tutsi were killed during the period of the "Rwandan genocide" (April-July, 1994), and that killings on the ground in Rwanda actually “surged” in each area attacked by Kagame’s RPF.
3. Allan Stam, a former Special Forces soldier as well as an academician, has pointed out that the Kagame-RFP military offensive following the “triggering event” of the "Rwandan genocide" (i.e., the shootdown of the Falcon-50 jet) were closely modeled on the U.S. ground invasion of Iraq during the first Gulf War, and that Kagame’s forces went into mass action within one hour of this event. (Kagame actually studied at Fort Leavenworth in the United States, and was apparently a quick learner.)
4. Both before and during the “Rwandan genocide,” the
5. Kagame’s forces established control of
Paul Kagame has used the excuse of pursuing “genocidaires” to justify his regular invasions of the
And all the while, Kagame has ridden the wave of fighting against “genocide denial”! Hopefully, he has gone too far in using that Kafkaesque gimmick against Peter Erlinder, a notable fighter against both actual genocide and genocide denial.
—- Endnotes —-
 For a much more comprehensive development of the themes discussed here, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System," Monthly Review 60, May, 2010. Also see Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide (
 Quoting Kinzer’s hagiographic words in A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It (
 "Rwanda opposition chief held for ‘genocide denial’," Agence France Presse, April 21, 2010.
 Peter Erlinder quoted in "U.S. Lawyer to Defend Victoire Ingabire: First Female Presidential Candidate in Rwanda—Jailed by President/Gen. Paul Kagame," News Advisory, International Humanitarian Law Institute, April 23, 2010 (as posted to the BayView website).
 Josh Kron and Jeffrey Gettleman, "American Lawyer for Opposition Figure Is Arrested in Rwanda," New York Times, May 29, 2010.
 "Rwanda arrests U.S. lawyer defending opposition figure," Agence France Presse, May 28, 2010.
 See Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, June 4, 2003, and its Amendments, as posted to the website of the Rwandan Ministry of Defense. Here we note that the word ‘genocide’ appears no fewer than 14 different times in
 George E. Moose, "Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda," Information Memorandum to The Secretary, U.S. Department of State, undated though clearly drafted between September 17 and 20, 1994. This document is archived at the Rwanda Documents Project at William Mitchell College of Law,
 See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "The Dismantling of Yugoslavia," Monthly Review 59, October, 2007, esp. Sect. 5 and Sect. 6, 19-26.
 See Jean-Louis Bruguière, Request for the Issuance of International Arrest Warrants, Tribunal de Grande Instance,
 See Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, Rwandan Political Violence in Space and Time, unpublished manuscript, 2004 (available at Christian Davenport’s personal website > "Project Writings"); and Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam, "What Really Happened in Rwanda?" Miller-McCune, October 6, 2009.
 See Allan C. Stam, "Coming to a New Understanding of the Rwanda Genocide," a lecture before the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy,
 In the words of Rwandan UN Ambassador Jean-Damascène Bizimana: "[T]he international community does not seem to have acted in an appropriate manner to reply to the anguished appeal of the people of