A ridiculous attack on Peter Robinson

Over at Opinio Juris, Kevin Heller has published a post on the article written by a certain Phil Quin attacking one of Kevin’s former students, Golriz Ghahraman, for, among other things, having worked on a Defense team at the ICTR.

I have nothing to add to Kevin’s great takedown of the article and its ridiculous “guilt by association” approach to being a Defense counsel and I share his outrage.

What I find equally scandalous is Quin’s shameless attack on Peter Robinson, one of the most respected lawyers in international criminal law, both for his competence and his humanity:

In a paper co-authored by Peter Robinson, a noted sceptic of both the Rwandan and Srebrenica massacres, Ghahraman claimed the event that precipitated the genocide — the plane crash that killed former President Habyarimana as well as the President of Burundi — may have been a war crime committed by Tutsi forces, the Rwandan Patriotic Army. This “blame the victims” strategy was employed by Hutu Power propagandists from hours after the missile struck the plane.

What Quin does not say is that this paper was published in 2008 in the Journal of International Criminal Justice, not an obscure newspaper from New Zealand, but one of the most respected journals dealing with international criminal law. This does not make the paper per se good of course, but it is unlikely that the journal founded by Antonio Cassesse, one of the leading figures in the fight against impunity the board of which has included over the years a list of editors that have collectively arguably done more for the advancement of international justice than any other group, would publish a paper that would merely be a revisionist rant.

In fact, when you read the paper, it is quickly apparent (something that Quin also fails to mention) that the premise of the argument is based not on some conspiracy-theory nutjob living in a basement, but 1) on the findings of two investigative Judges (one in France and one in Rwanda) and 2) on evidence adduced at the ICTR itself (including from Prosecution witnesses). And the authors provide details and references that anyone can check (contrary to Quin who does not even bother to give the reference of the “paper co-authored”).

Of course, Quin’s position is somewhat unsurprising given that he has worked closely as an adviser to the Rwandan government in the past, according to his website, and seems to be a strong defender of everything Kagame does. I’ve shared my views on Rwanda and Kagame elsewhere on this blog and on the fact that he has benefited from an incredible amount of slack for a war criminal and dictator. What I find disturbing here is that the op-ed does not even mention this affiliation between Quin and the current Government. Quin can hold the views he wants, but minimal journalistic ethics would at least require that he mention that for a while, he actually worked for the Kagame regime.

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