Bar Council voices concern over arrest of American lawyer in Kigali

THE Bar Council has voiced its deep concern over the arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder in Kigali, Rwanda.


Professor Erlinder is a distinguished academic in the USA and a member of the International Criminal Bar. He had travelled to Kigali to assist in the defence of Victoire Ingabire, who is charged with offences of assisting terrorists, propagating genocide and other offences and returned from exile to stand as an opposition candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections.

Professor Erlinder, has appeared as defence counsel in the trial named Military I which is before the International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda. In this position he had argued that the plan to commit genocide had not been established by the prosecution evidence; this argument was accepted by the Court and acquittals on counts of genocide were returned.

Vice Chairman of the Bar Council, Peter Lodder QC, said: “His arrest is a violation of the most basic principle for the proper presentation of a defence, namely the immunity of counsel from any criminal proceedings for defence positions taken in Court. The Bar Council urges the United Kingdom government to demand that the Rwandan authorities immediately abandon all charges against Professor Erlinder and release him without any delay. If not, there is no doubt that the ability to mount a proper defence in criminal trials is at risk and the fairness of all trials before international criminal courts will have become disastrously affected.”

On Thursday 3 June, the Bar Council delegation travelled to Hong Kong, where it held a seminar in collaboration with the Hong Kong Bar Association focusing on recent regulatory changes at the Bar, including the work on reforming the system of barristers’pupillage and exploring ways in which the Bars in the two countries can further their co-operation. The Hong Kong Bar is currently undertaking a similar review of its pupillage system and is interested in discussing the recommendations recently published by the Bar Council’s Working Group. The delegation also met with a group of LCTS graduates who work in and around Hong Kong.

Before leaving London, Chairman of the Bar, Nicholas Green QC
said:
“We are very much looking forward to this trip, which we see as a great opportunity to strengthen further the Bar’s longstanding and considerable relationship with the Hong Kong Bar, the Chinese legal profession more generally, and to raise awareness of the Bar’s advocacy and advisory services among Chinese law firms that engage in international trade.

The international work of the Bar Council is a fundamental part of what we do, and it maintains and enhances the Bar’s reputation for providing extremely high quality services”.

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