_____________________________________________________________________________

 

No resolution presented herein reflects the policy of the Minnesota State Bar

Association until approved by the Assembly. Informational reports, comments,

and supporting data are not approved by their acceptance for filing and do not

become part of the policy of the Minnesota State Bar Association

unless specifically approved by the Assembly.


 

 

PROPOSED RESOLUTION

FOR ADOPTION BY THE

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

OF THE MINNESOTA STATE BAR ASSOCIATION

JUNE 25, 2010

 

Whereas the Constitution of Rwanda, adopted on May 26, 2003, states that Rwanda is ‘Resolved to build a State governed by the rule of law, based on respect for fundamental human rights, pluralistic democracy, equitable power sharing, tolerance and resolution of issues through dialogue’; and

Whereas it is incumbent upon Rwanda, as it is incumbent on all members of the family of nations, to observe the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; ;

Whereas Peter Erlinder is a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and has served as a lead defense attorney for the United Nationals International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania;

 

Whereas Peter Erlinder was arrested on May 28, 2010, in Kigali, Rwanda, and is currently being detained at Kigali Central Prison on charges of ‘genocide ideology’ based on statements made as part of his work as a defense attorney for his Rwandan clients;

 

Now, therefore, be it Resolved,

That the Minnesota State Bar Association  urges the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and President Paul Kagame to 1) to immediately release human rights and criminal defense lawyer Professor Peter Erlinder from jail, 2) to drop all charges against him based on actions taken in the course of his professional representation of his clients in Rwanda and the exercise of his internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly, and 3) to allow him to continue his legal representation and the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly without further intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper influence.

 

__________________________________________________________

 

Written Report

Accompanying the Proposed Resolution

As Required by Article 6, Section 6.1 (d)

 

1.     Reasons for the Resolution

 

Peter Erlinder is a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and serves as a lead defense attorney for the United Nationals International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.

 

Peter Erlinder, after being given a visa to enter the country by the Rwanda government, was arrested on May 28, 2010, in Kigali, Rwanda, and is currently being detained at Kicukiro Prison on charges of ‘genocide ideology’[1] based  upon legal arguments made as part of his work as a defense attorney at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The Constitution of Rwanda, adopted on May 26, 2003, states that Rwanda is ‘Resolved to build a State governed by the rule of law, based on respect for fundamental human rights, pluralistic democracy, equitable power sharing, tolerance and resolution of issues through dialogue’.

It is incumbent upon Rwanda, as it is incumbent on all members of the family of nations, to observe the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The Government of the Republic of Rwanda ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in on April 16, 1975 without reservation, thereby obligating itself to, among other things, to respect the right of all persons to freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice --  Article 19, Paragraph 2;

As reported in House Resolution 1426 sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Keith Ellison, there is an increasing pattern of restrictions of free expression in Rwanda ahead of the August presidential elections, including the denial of a work visa to a senior Human Rights Watch researcher and the crackdown of opposition members and journalists.

The United States Government has provided over $1,034,000,000 billion in United States taxpayer-funded foreign assistance to Rwanda since 2000, and an additional $240,200,000 is proposed in the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget.

 

As the premier voice of lawyers in Minnesota, the MSBA has a special and rightful interest in protecting Minnesota lawyers from being prosecuted for vigorous advocacy on behalf of their clients.  Indeed, the injunction to zealously and competently represent our clients is one of the most basic requirements of all attorneys and is a principle that the MSBA and its members are always proud to uphold.

 

Finally, we note the reasons cited by other voices raised in Attorney Erlinder's defense and calling for his release.  See the attached supporting documents, statements by 1) the President of the American Bar Association; 2) the defense lawyers representing persons accused before the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda,3) the deans of 92 US law schools,4) the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), and 5) the Society of American Law Teachers.  Also attached are:  House Resolution 1426 authored by Representatives McCollum and Ellison and “Comment on the Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology of Rwanda” by Article 19:  Global Campaign for Free Expression.

 

2.      No Commitment Beyond the Words of the Resolution

 

As required by Section 6.1, d, ii, this Report contains no language that commits the MSBA to policy not set forth in the resolution.

 

3.      Expenditures

 

This Resolution requires no expenditures.

 

4.      Designated Spokesperson

 

Peter W. Brown, Attorney

3121 Portland Avenue South

Minneapolis, MN 55407;

612-824-6533

peterb3121@hotmail.com.



[1]  For information on the specifics of the Rwanda law making “genocide ideology” a crime, see the attached human rights analysis provided by Article 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression, which includes the complete text of the law.