U.K. GOVERNMENT INSTEAD URGED TO INVESTIGATE APPOINTEE’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND IMPOSE MAGNITSKY-STYLE SANCTIONS
September 9, 2021 – The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice today called upon the U.K. Foreign Ministry to reject the credentials of the newly appointed Rwandan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Johnston Busingye, and to instead carefully investigate human rights violations committed by him, which could result in the imposition of Magnitsky-style sanctions.
Lantos Foundation President Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett has written directly to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, encouraging him to reject the credentials of Mr. Busingye based on the evidence that he played a key role in the extraordinary rendition and kidnapping of Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda, in late August 2020. At the time of Mr. Rusesabagina’s kidnapping and subsequent arrest, Mr. Busingye served as Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, the agency which has overseen Rusesabagina’s capture, imprisonment and subsequent sham trial. Then-Minister Busingye admitted during a televised interview on Al Jazeera in February 2021 that the Rwandan government had paid for the plane that transported Mr. Rusesabagina, against his will and without his knowledge, to Kigali. Mr. Busingye’s own statements make his complicity in the kidnapping of Mr. Rusesabagina crystal clear.
In light of the clear evidence of Mr. Busingye’s involvement in the kidnapping, the Lantos Foundation filed a formal submission to the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Treasury in May 2021, recommending Global Magnitsky sanctions against Mr. Busingye and another high-ranking official from the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB). The submission made the case that these men played a significant role in grave human rights violations for which they should be held accountable. This submission was simultaneously transmitted to authorities in the U.K. for consideration. Neither country has taken action to impose sanctions, to date.
On September 1, 2021, Rwandan President Paul Kagame unceremoniously dismissed Mr. Busingye from his role as Minister of Justice. He gave no reason and has not announced a replacement to lead the Ministry of Justice. He did, however, appoint Mr. Busingye as Rwanda’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom – effectively removing him from the country just weeks before a verdict is expected in the sham trial against Mr. Rusesabagina, which has been underway for nearly seven months.
“President Paul Kagame may believe that by sending Johnston Busingye to London, he can divert the focus from the former Justice Minister’s shameful actions and the way he brazenly violated the basic human rights of a humanitarian hero,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett. “But nations who respect human rights cannot allow Kagame to try and sweep these violations under the rug by simply assigning Mr. Busingye elsewhere. We call upon Foreign Secretary Raab and the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office to refuse to legitimize Mr. Busingye by accepting his credentials as the Rwandan Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Furthermore, the British Government should seriously and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of Mr. Rusesabagina’s kidnapping and Mr. Busingye’s involvement in these events. If they find the case that we have submitted compelling, and I truly believe they will, it is imperative that they immediately consider Magnitsky-style sanctions against Mr. Busingye and his accomplices.”
Mr. Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and U.S. Permanent Resident, has been an outspoken critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who human rights organizations, journalists and policymakers around the world have increasingly characterized as a brutal dictator. Mr. Rusesabagina had stated publicly on several occasions that he could not return to his native country for fear of retribution, and last August he believed he was traveling from his home in Texas to a speaking engagement in Burundi. The private jet he boarded after a layover in Dubai in fact transported him to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, whereupon he was disappeared for three full days before reappearing in the custody of the RIB. Tragically, Mr. Rusesabagina is not the first critic of the Rwandan government to find himself in this situation – or one that is even worse. Over the past several years under President Paul Kagame, the Rwandan government has demonstrated an alarming pattern of subjecting its critics to a range of gross human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, unlawful imprisonments and extrajudicial killings.
About the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice: The Lantos Foundation was established in 2008 to carry forward the legacy of Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a leading human rights champion. The Foundation works with a range of partners and often in cooperation with the U.S. Government on issues that span the globe. The Foundation’s key areas of focus include human rights issues related to religious freedom, rule of law, internet freedom and activist art. The Foundation also administers the Lantos Congressional Fellows Program, supports human rights advocates, activists and artists through its Front Line Fund grant program, and awards the annual Lantos Human Rights Prize to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. Past recipients of the Prize include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Elie Wiesel, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Iraqi Parliamentarian Vian Dakhil, Hong Kong Democracy activist Joshua Wong, Bill Browder, the driving force behind the global Magnitsky movement, among others.