Dec. 5, 2011 – Oklahoma City, OK. The widows of two African Presidents slain in the 1994 missile attack on the Presidential plane that triggered the “Rwanda genocide,” filed notice with the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals challenging “head-of-state” immunity granted to the current President of Rwanda, by the Obama administration in Habyarimana v. Kagame.
Kagame has been indicted for the murders of the Presidents in France and Spain. On October 1, Kagame’s former Chief of Staff issued a public statement admitting his knowledge of Kagame’s role in the assassination of the two Presidents and the cover-up, assisted by the ruling party and its supporters in the U.S government.
The top UN Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte’s memoir states she was fired by the U.S. in 2003 when she publicly announced she had the evidence to prosecute Kagame and the RPF for “Rwanda genocide” crimes. A District Court in Oklahoma City dismissed the wrongful death lawsuit against Kagame for the assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira after the Obama administration claimed that “head-of-state” immunity applies to acts Mr. Kagame allegedly committed as a private citizen, not related to any government policy, which occurred long before he became Rwandan head-of state.
The Supreme Court has already established in Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S.681 (1997) that U.S. Presidents may not claim immunity for acts committed before becoming head-of-state. In June 2010, the Supreme Court held in Samantar v. Yousuf, 130S.Ct.2278 (2010) that individual immunity is derived from the sovereign immunity of the state, and individuals may only claim immunity for acts committed in on behalf of a government, when acting in an official capacity.
According to Prof. Peter Erlinder (IHLI Director and co-Counsel on appeal with John Zelbst, Esq. of Lawton, Oklahoma): “Whether Mr. Obama has the power to grant an expansive immunity from suit in U.S. courts to a foreign head-of-state, that Mr. Obama could not claim for himself; nor could be claimed by the Mr. Kagame, is aquestion of first impression that raises a basic separation of powers question: does the Supreme Court or the Executive Branch ultimately decide the scope of immunity from suit in Article III courts? It is a question the Supreme Court will eventually have to decide.”
Oral argument is requested, a briefing schedule will be set by the Court.
Erlinder is Professor of Constitutional Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law at Wm. Mitchell College of Law, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger’s Minnesota alma mater. Erlinder is also Lead Defense Counsel in the Military-1 trial at the UN Tribunal for Rwanda, the case in which found four former top military leaders were acquitted of conspiring or planning to commit genocide or any other crimes, and the highest ranking defendant was acquitted of all charges, in December 2008. Erlinder is also President of ICTR-ADAD (Association des Avocats de la Defense), past-President of the National Lawyers Guild, NY, NY and Director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute, St. Paul, MN.
Carla Del Ponte is a former Chief Prosecutor of two United Nations international criminal law tribunals. A former Swiss attorney general, she was appointed prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in August 1999..