Belgium demands a fair trial for Paul Rusesabagina

Paul Rusesabagina, a prominent government critic, attends a court hearing in Kigali, Rwanda on February 26, 2021. Rwanda’s High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes ruled that it has jurisdiction to try him. © 2021 AP Photo/Muhizi Olivie

By Arnold Gakuba

On this 26th April 2016, the newspaper “La Libre” published that the Beligium Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmès demanded her counterpart Rwandan  Mr. Vincent Biruta, she received Monday in Brussels, a “fair, equitable and transparent” trial for Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the film “Hotel Rwanda” arrested since mid- February in Kigali and accused of terrorism.

The Belgium Foreign Affairs stated that the country is concerned with the fact  that Mr. Rusesabagina was not in a position to properly prepare his defense due to the time allotted to him and the failure to respect the confidentiality of the documents exchanged with his lawyers.

Sophie Wilmès has also repeated the Belgium’s request to give Mr. Rusesabagina the opportunity to meet his Belgian lawyer in order to share with him the proceedings currently underway in Belgium, which is still not possible at this time. “Belgium will continue to monitor the situation as it has always done from the start” added Deputy Prime Minister MR.

The Belgian-Rwandan, Paul Rusesabagina did not appear last Wednesday in his trial and informed the prison authorities that he will no longer do it considering that his right to defend himself was violated. 

The former manager of Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Mr. Rusesabagina, aged of 66, was made famous by a 2004 film about how he saved more than 1,000 people during the Rwandan genocide. This moderate Hutu then has  become a critic of the Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his regime. 

 Living in exile since 1996 in the United States of America and Belgium, he was arrested around the end of August in Rwanda in troubled circumstances, when a plane he thought was going to Burundi brought him to Kigali. Him and his lawyers denounce that this act is a “kidnapping“. In an interview held with Al-Jazeera at the end of February, the Rwandan Minister of Justice indicated that the government had financed the operation.

Paul Rusesabagina is accused of nine charges including that of terrorism. He is notably prosecuted for having supported the National Liberation Front (FLN), a rebel group accused of having carried out deadly attacks in Rwanda in recent years.

 Rusesabagina admitted to having participated in the creation of the FLN, the armed wing of Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) that he founded in 2017. But he denied any involvement in their attacks. All rwandans and the international community request a fair trial for Paul Rusesabagina. However, we doubt it will be the case.