By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame has done it again – he has cleverly used the doctrine of head of state immunity and foreign sovereign immunities in the US to escape from accountability for human rights atrocities. In the lawsuit filed by the family of Paul Rusesabagina against Kagame and his regime for kidnapping, torture and detention of Rusesabagina, a US Court dismissed the case on January 23, 2023. The Court ruled that it does not have jurisdiction because the defendants, Kagame and Rwanda, have immunity from prosecution in the United States.
This is not the first time the Rwandan strongman has used immunity to shield his impunity. Similarly, in 2011, a US Court ruled that as a head of state, Kagame was immune from being tried in the US for the wrongful death civil suit filed by the families of Juvenal Habyarimana, former ruler of Rwanda, and his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira. The two heads of state were killed in a rocket attack on their plane at Kigali International Airport in 1994.
In the Paul Rusesabagina’s case , the Court ruled on January 23, 2023, as follows:
“President Paul Kagame is categorically immune from suit in United States courts as a sitting head of state. As for the plaintiffs’ claims against Rwanda, they do not fall within any exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that would permit this Court to establish jurisdiction over that foreign sovereign. I will accordingly GRANT Rwanda’s and President Kagame’s motions to discuss.”
General Paul Kagame has long figured out how to use immunities as a shield from accountability for human rights atrocities. There can be no doubt that in Kagame’s case, immunity translates into impunity. Stay tuned.