Friday, June 11, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

The Law Society of Upper Canada and Genocide Denial in Rwanda
By Gerald Caplan
The Globe and Mail, June 11, 2010
"[...] Everything Ms. Ingabire says and does can be characterized as deliberately provocative, testing what she can get away with, seeing how far she can trample on laws against both genocide denial and exacerbating ethnic tensions. It's only 16 years since the genocide, the country remains fragile, and the government has many avowed mortal enemies. Ms. Ingabire has consorted with many of them. Ms. Ingabire may acknowledge the genocide out of one corner of her mouth. Yet she tells reporters that she doesn't know whether more Tutsi or more Hutu were killed. There are two interpretations of this statement. At best, it implies an equivalency between the number of Tutsi and Hutu killed -- a bald-faced lie. At its worst, it means accepting the assertions of a lunatic fringe of deniers that more Hutu than Tutsi were actually slaughtered. It is hardly possible that she's unaware of this loaded ambiguity. Ms. Ingabire succeeds in enraging the government.
They arrange for her and an assistant to be assaulted by a gang of young men. She is then imprisoned and charged with genocide denial and 'spreading ethnic dissent' but she is released on bail. Her movements are monitored. Into this scene suddenly appears her chosen lawyer, an American named Peter Erlinder. Erlinder's presence is like a sharp slap in the face to all survivors of the genocide. Ms. Ingabire is going out of her way to provoke again. There are no accidents: Erlinder is one of the world's leading deniers of the genocide against the Tutsi. For years he has noisily doubted that there was ever a plan by Hutu extremists to exterminate all the Tutsi, a truth embraced by the vast majority of those who have studied Rwanda. As of this writing, the Kagame government seems determined to hold Erlinder prisoner. Though he seems to have real health problems, he has been refused bail to return to the US to seek medical care. Everyone and their uncle condemns the Kagame government for its intransigence in the cases of both Ms. Ingabire and Mr. Erlinder. Both the American State Department and, yes, the Law Society of Upper Canada, demand that he be released and allowed to function freely as a lawyer (health permitting). The Law Society's letter does not mention his views on the genocide. Whether he actually meets 'high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct' is not raised. Holocaust or genocide denial is now banned in Israel, Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Israel, Poland and Portugal. If you break the law you are punished by imprisonment or a fine. A number of Holocaust deniers have been jailed in these countries, including David Irving and Ernst Zundel in Germany. Why is it not acceptable for denial to be banned in Rwanda, of all places, and why shouldn't deniers be duly punished? [...]"

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