Genocide

“What, me worry?”

As a legal observer of the final presidential talking points exchange debate, the moment that stood out to me was when Mitt Romney pledged to “indict” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “under the Genocide Convention.” This is not the first time Romney has expressed this sentiment, having told reporters last month that he would pursue legal action against Ahmadinejad.

Uh-oh! Mahmoud, watch out for that process server.

This is not exactly a “get tough” military option as much as an “empty symbolic gesture,” but that’s understandable, because, as the media can’t stop telling us, “women don’t like scary conflict.”

But what exactly is Romney talking about? How does one indict the President of Iran? Let’s journey down the rabbit hole of international law…

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A law professor from Minnesota is not having a very good start to his summer break. As we previously mentioned in the Memorial Day Docket, a William Mitchell College of Law professor, Peter Erlinder, 62, traveled to Rwanda last month to help with the legal defense of Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader running against current-President Paul Kagame in the central African country’s August elections.

Erlinder, who previously defended a Rwandan accused of genocide during the International Criminal Tribunals in 2003, was arrested within a week of his arrival for denying that genocide occurred there. (If you need a history lesson here, watch Hotel Rwanda.) From the Associated Press:

Erlinder is accused of violating Rwanda’s laws against minimizing the genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by Hutus in 100 days. Erlinder doesn’t deny massive violence happened but contends it’s inaccurate to blame just one side.

Erlinder’s views are generally controversial. See, e.g., this open letter he wrote about Darfur (via the WSJ).

Erlinder could face up to 25 years in prison. His defenders say his arrest has more to do with his efforts on behalf of an opposition candidate than his views on genocide. But the Rwandan government has a different view:

[Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin] Ngoga’s office compared Rwanda’s laws to those in some European countries against denying the Holocaust.

“We understand that human rights activists schooled in the U.S. Bill of Rights may find this objectionable,” government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement. “But for Rwandans — schooled in the tragedy of the 1994 genocide and who long for peace — Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.”

How did Erlinder get into this mess? We corresponded with his daughter, who shed some light on the situation….

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