CASEFILE RUSESABAGINA Paul: A TRIAL ALREADY RULED

INTRODUCTION

Assisted by Me Rudakemwa Jean Felix, Mr. RUSESABAGINA Paul raised to the Court the objection of legitimate suspicion that he will no longer appear there as he does not hope to enjoy a fair trial before a so partial court. What are the judicial guarantees flouted in the RUSESABAGINA case to the point that he resolves to distrust? A series of objections he raised since the start of the criminal proceedings against RUSESABAGINA Paul were automatically rejected so that he may easily conclude that he is already sentenced and that the trial is just a masquerade of formalities to uselessly waste his time. Throughout the following lines, there is intended to succinctly point out various violations of fundamental rights and due process committed by authorities who took part in the case of the hero of hotel Rwanda.

I.FACTS

According to the indictment issued by the Rwandan authorities, Mr. Rusesabagina is accused of nine offenses, among them murder, armed robbery and being a member of a terrorist organization. The charges center on Mr. Rusesabagina’s leadership in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change, an opposition coalition in exile whose armed wing, the National Liberation Front, Rwandan authorities have accused of carrying out attacks along Rwanda’s southern border with Burundi in 2018.

The authorities have zeroed in on a 2018 video in which Mr. Rusesabagina said that all “political means have been tried and failed” in Rwanda and that it was time to “use any means possible to bring about change.”

The other 20 defendants include Callixte Nsabimana, also known as Sankara, a former spokesman of the National Liberation Front who is accused of orchestrating attacks in Rwanda’s southern borders.

Mr. Rusesabagina asked the court to release him on bail, citing poor health, but his request was rejected. The prosecution described him as a flight risk.

Mr. Rusesabagina’s lead counsel, Kate Gibson, said the proceeding should not even start given the many “fair trial violations.” Ms. Gibson is one of three of Mr. Rusesabagina’s international lawyers who have not been allowed into Kigali to represent him.

Because of his Belgian citizenship and the circumstances of his arrest, she said, Rwanda “does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate this case, and should dismiss the charges and permanently stay the proceedings,” she said in an email.

II.RIGHTS INFRINGED IN THE CASE 

1)Abduction

I am a Belgian citizen. I am here simply as a hostage,” Rusesabagina said, adding that he renounced his Rwandan citizenship in 1996 when he fled Rwanda to Belgium.

“When I arrived in Belgium, I handed over my Rwandan passport and National Identity Card. I immediately ceased to be Rwandan but instead became what you would call an orphan under the care of the United Nations,” Rusesabagina continued, urging the court to order for his repatriation back to Belgium to face trial there.

Wednesday’s trial marked the first joint hearing of Rusesabagina and his co-accused after the prosecution requested last year that the case be combined into a single trial for all those they claim are linked to two militia attacks in 2018 and 2019 on the country’s Nyungwe National parks.

2) Legal assistance

The family of RUSESABAGINA Paul now residing in US appointed a number of advocates to assist him but the Rwanda Bar Association hindered their recognition and integration in a bid the assisted the accused. Consequently, he was assisted volle nolle by attorneys he did not choose and is not sure to be duly defended due to lack of confidence especially as the government may bribe them or even threaten them and consequently weaken their interventions where they will workdeprived of independence; under fear and not freely pleading the case.

3) Access to documents

The accused was deprived of access to the full dossier so that he may know what he is prosecuted for to prepare his defence and be in touch with his advocated 

4) Documents confiscated

The Rwanda correction service of Mageragere retained confidential documents of RUSESABAGINA Paul thus infringing his privacy and aggravating the violations of his fundamental rights in his quality of accused. The prison authorities have repeatedly confiscated confidential legal documents, Ms. Gibson said. And with no case file or indictment documents and no way to speak with his lawyers privately, Mr. Rusesabagina is not able to prepare for his own case, she said.

5) Health challenges

Aged of 66, RUSESABAGINA Paul suffers from sickness which must be cared for by medicaments from abroad and with prison conditions in Rwanda, he was not facilitated to regularly get them and his family was worried about his health situation. Indeed, Mr. Rusesabagina, who has high blood pressure, has repeatedly said in recent months that he is afraid he will die from a stroke. Medications the family sent through the Belgian Embassy in Kigali never reached him, they said. And with Covid-19 outbreaks reported in the prison, his family is worried he will contract the virus.

6) Issue of competence

The Nyanza based High Court Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes has said it would proceed with the trial of the terror suspect Paul Rusesabagina stressing that it had jurisdiction to try a suspect who committed crimes on Rwandan territory regardless the citizenship.

The hearing resumed this Friday 26, February 2021 after the court had been adjourned early this month when the prime suspect said he was a Belgian not Rwandan challenging the judicial competence of Rwandan court to try him, but rather sought the transfer to Belgium for trial should he be accused of any crime.

While the court is based in the Southern Province’s Nyanza district, the hearing is being held in the country’s capital city of Kigali, precisely in the Supreme Court’s premises to accommodate more people.

In today’s hearing, the courtroom packed though they respected guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as wearing facemasks and respected social distancing.

The hearing was covered by both local and international journalists and attended with different people including representatives from foreign countries.

Rusesabagina is one of 21 terror suspects all members of the National Liberation Front (FLN) who allegedly committed various crimes in Rwanda between 2028-2019 and at least claimed lives of nine people.

FLN is the army wing of the political outfit Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) in French Acronym whose leader and founder is Rusesabagina.

He faces nine crimes including the formation of an irregular armed group, membership of a terrorist group, financing terrorism, murder as an act of terrorism, abduction as an act of terrorism, and armed robbery as an act of terrorism.

The prosecution alleges that Rusesabagina’s MRCD through its armed wing, FLN launched the attacks in Rwanda’s Southern Province through Nyungwe forests and killed civilians injured others, and committed other crimes.

In the same case, eight-four people filed cases claiming for reparation. All the suspects were present along with their lawyers.

7) Issue of nationality

The objection of Belgian citizenship was rejected by the court pretending that he did not officially give up the nationality of origin putting aside that he was a political refugee who could not return in the country he fled fearing persecution and overlooking the provisions of the 1951 treaty on the status of the refugees defining who is a refugee. 

III.ANALYSIS: ALEA JACTA EST

1) Effects of the Default

The court will continue to try the case and will render the judgment by default.It obvious that the accused will lose the case especially as the court manifested its partial position and that he will not have expressed his defence means in what is expressed in the latin adage”reus in excipiendo fit actor” meaning that the accused has an opportunity to refute accusing proofs presented by the prosecuting party. When the default ruling is notified to the party, he has 10 days to introduce opposition if not the judgment is open to appeal within 30 days.

2)Alea jacta est

In other words, the accused considers that his case is already ruled. Indeed, Paul RUSESABAGINA found out that his case is politicized and courts are already  ordered to convict and sentence him .This is proved by the fact that all objections he raised before the court were immediately rejected notably the issue of abduction of which he was victim in the detriment of rules governing extradition of suspects and transfer of sentenced people; the principle of  non refoulement of political refugees and other rights building up the international covenant on civil and political rights of 16 December 1966 and the universal declaration of human rights of 10 December 1948.Second,the count of nationality whereby he claimed that he is a Belgian citizen and has given up the Rwandan citizenship when he became a refugee and could not materially fulfill the formalities required by the Rwandan law governing nationality given that he fled the country. Furthermore, his rights to legal assistance by the counsels of his choice were ignored by the court and the Rwandan bar association did not allow foreign advocates the family appoint to be integrated pretending that there is no previous agreement existing with their bar associations; which infringes his rights given that he is assisted by local advocates who may easily be influenced by the regime of Kigali and are not trustable in terms of confidence. In fine, the declarations of NIYOMWUNGERE who played a crucial role to abduct him corroborated by the declarations of the attorney general BUSINGE Johnston, Minister of Justice where on the Chain Al-Jazeera he admitted that the state funded the kidnapping and capture of RUSESABAGINA Paul.

CONCLUSION 

The legitimate suspicion raised by RUSESABAGINA Paul is an alarm addressed to the international community and foreign states funders of Rwanda about the injustice and partiality of which he is being victim before Rwandan courts. The international organizations such the United Nations, European Union and even the African Union and European states funding justice sector such Belgium and Netherlands are called upon to not accord value to this masquerade of judgment which will justify the execution of RUSESABAGINA Paul and which motivated the refusal to release him and let  him return in Belgium.

Meanwhile, there is requested to all those international and regional institutions and states to take necessary measures against the repressive Rwandan state getting over this façade judgment going on.

The Rwandan Lawyer

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