The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] has removed US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive] from his position as an ICTR defense lawyer. Appeals chamber judges said that last week's decision was based on Erlinder's failure to appear at the tribunal [New Times report] in Arusha, Tanzania. The decision [text, PDF] cites Rule 46 of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence [text], which allows the tribunal to impose sanctions on lawyers guilty of misconduct, after giving the lawyer proper warning. Erlinder has claimed that he did not travel to the tribunal because his life is in danger and that he is on a reported hit list consisting of the opponents of Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile]. The ICTR will replace Erlinder with another defense lawyer "as soon as possible."
Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga announced in October that Erlinder would be summoned to face charges of genocide denial [JURIST report] in Rwanda, after Erlinder said that it was incorrect to place the blame for the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on one side. The appeals chamber of the ICTR released a decision earlier in October that allowed the Rwandan government to pursue charges [JURIST report] against Erlinder. In a reversal of a previous statement [JURIST report], the ICTR decided that Erlinder was charged for actions committed outside the scope of his ICTR employment as a defense lawyer. Erlinder returned to the US in June after spending 21 days in a Rwandan prison following his arrest [JURIST reports] on charges that he denied the genocide, and he has since been touring the US [NYT report] and speaking about his experiences. A week before his return, the High Court of Rwanda [GlobaLex backgrounder] had released Erlinder on bail due to persisting medical problems from what Rwandan officials say was a suicide attempt [JURIST reports].