By Erasme Rugemintwaza
In a case which in many ways resembles a fictional detective novel, and whose outcome the whole world awaits, the strongman of Kigali seems to be a counter-hero engaged in his own loss. And like a rocking ship in the middle of an ocean steaming with anger, Paul Kagame no longer knows where to anchor! Like a hunter who considers himself to be experienced, Paul Kagame one day picked up his patronymic Paul Rusesabagina in a well-hatched plot, and took him to Kigali. A diplomatic saga is set in motion!
The Rusesabagina judicial affair continues to rock international opinion and to generate a lot of ink and saliva. This case is and will remain more than ever the one which held the breath of the international community, the one which aroused so much turmoil, so much suspense, so much questioning because the Hollywood star is no longer an actor, he is more than the actor, he is the theme, the script… The case concerns human rights, international law and above all the competences of the courts. It arouses both family and diplomatic passions and compassion. It is a case that reshapes and creates new conditions in international diplomacy. It risks creating a boomerang effect for its author Kagame who thought he picked up a lamb, when he is a lion cub with sharp fangs with an empire behind him? What is really going on?
A case that betrays a rotten judicial system!
A so-called arrest that is not legally recognized
The information relayed by the media flooded the web and wave that dissident Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped in order to bring him back to Rwanda. Rwandan President Paul Kagame refuted this, saying he was responsible for his own arrest. According to the Rwandan Police Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda” in 2004, was the subject of an international arrest warrant and currently, he faces a number of charges including those of terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder perpetrated against innocent and unarmed Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory
The RIB initially said, without disclosing details, that Rusesabagina, who was living in exile, was arrested thanks to “international cooperation”, prompting complaints of kidnapping from some human rights activists. “There was no kidnapping, and he will attest to that himself. There was no such thing. There was no wrongdoing in the proceedings that brought him to Rwanda, ”said Paul Kagame in an interview with Rwandan television. “Those who are looking to find out how he got here, [claiming] that the government must have been guilty of this or that – they will be surprised to find that Rusesabagina is solely responsible for his coming here. It is a fact, ”he added.
But to everyone’s surprise, the Minister of Justice will contradict his president, Paul Kagame. The government of Rwanda admitted, on 03/05/2021, to having “facilitated” the trip to Kigali, where Rusesabagina was arrested; the Minister of Justice specified in an interview that the authorities had financed this operation. “The government has paid,” Rwandan Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye said from Kigali in an interview with Al Jazeera’s UpFront program. “There is a person who worked for a long time with Mr. Rusesabagina, who had aroused the interest of our department of criminal investigations (…) and the payment was intended to facilitate this man’s plan to bring Rusesabagina to Rwanda. “, He explained. “The government did not play a role in its transportation. He helped this gentleman who wanted to bring him to Rwanda”, continued the minister, affirming that Rwanda had respected the legality by deceiving Mr. Rusesabagina.
“In international law, attracting people to places where they can be brought to justice has happened in many jurisdictions,” he said. The identity of the man who deceived the opponent is not given but he is mentioned as a former “accomplice”. We learn that the kidnapper is a Burundian pastor of a Christian sect who has Belgian nationality named Niyomwungere Constantin. He said he fooled Rusesabagina to carry out a plot he hatched with Kigali. On 03/05/2021 evening, the Rwandan Ministry of Justice confirmed in a statement that Rwanda had “facilitated the journey” bringing Mr. Rusesabagina to Kigali, claiming that the arrest was “legal” and that “his rights ‘have never been violated’.
Rusesabagina’s trial has been nothing but a farce since his kidnapping, which is a violation of the most blatant human rights. Whether it is his family, his lawyers including the Belgian Vincent Leurquin, the HRW, the Chamber’s External Relations Committee in Belgium, the Lantos Foundation, the Eldestam Foundation all qualify the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina as a kidnapping. Thus, in the resolution of the aforementioned House Relations Committee, addressed to the Belgian Government, Ms. Els Van Hoof said of this arrest that “It is a flagrant violation of the international convention on protection against enforced disappearances. Rights have been systematically violated”. He added “If Rwanda is not able to provide for the minimum conditions for a fair trial, Belgium must take action to allow a fair trial in our country”.
In fact, everyone agrees that the Rusesabagina trial is a highly political trial for strategic interests. But it should be noted that the nine counts of his charge, including that of terrorism following his alleged support for the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), a rebel group accused of having carried out deadly attacks in Rwanda, are false. The indisputable facts show that Rusesabagina no longer participated in the activities of the MRCD, even though he founded it.
In addition to that two co-defendants Herman Nsengimana and Marc Nizeyimana gave testimonies according to which Paul Rusesabagina no longer participated in the activities of the FLN, supposedly armed wing of the MRCD. However, Jean Pierre Habarurema, one of the prosecutors declared, during the hearing on Thursday June 17, 2021: “We saw that each act of Rusesabagina was of a criminal nature, with the intention of committing acts of terrorism” and added “As a leader, supporter and coordinator of the MRCD / FLN, he encouraged and allowed combatants to commit these terrorist acts against Rwanda. Even though he was not actively involved in these attacks, he is seen as someone who played a role simply by supporting these fighters. ” “He was the chairman of the MRCD / FLN when they attacked and killed in Nyaruguru in 2019, the person who gave the orders,” another prosecutor Bonaventure Ruberwa said. Thus, a life sentence was requested, this June 17, 2021, against Rusesabagina, hero of the film which was awarded of Oscar and honored with the Presidential Medal for Freedom, that the American President George W. Bush, himself has delivered.
The whole world cries at kidnapping!
The family raises a lot of concerns
The family of Paul Rusesabagina and his lawyer, Vincent Lurquin, urged the Belgian government to intervene quickly as the terrorism trial against the opponent of the Rwandan regime began in Kigali. They demanded the transfer of Paul Rusesabagina so that he can be tried in Belgium and not in Rwanda where “he will not be entitled to a fair trial,” they said in an online press conference.
“We know that the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Sophie Wilmès) and the government insist that we have access to consular assistance. But it is not effective. Dad still does not have access to his medication. Consular assistance should help him gain access to his lawyers, and that has still not been possible. The measures must be stronger. They must request that the trial be held in Belgium. He will not have a fair trial in Rwanda, “insisted his daughter, Carine.
Me Lurquin also insisted on the fact that his client has Belgian nationality and no longer a Rwandan as pretend the Rwandan authorities. “He’s only Belgian. Consular assistance could not have been provided if he had dual citizenship, “he insisted, adding that the trial must continue in Belgium, where an investigation is still ongoing. “There is a file open in Belgium, which is not yet closed, which allows us to request a transfer”, added the lawyer who wonders: “why Belgium continues to keep silent? “
Mr. Lurquin also reconsidered the arrest of his client in Rwanda last August, from Dubai, when his relatives say he was thinking of going to neighboring Burundi. After reviewing documents in the trial, “we can say what has been said for five and a half months: Paul has been kidnapped. The private jet in which Paul Rusesabagina boarded was chartered by the RIB, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (the Rwandan equivalent of the FBI, note) “.
The Rusesabagina family, counseled by Maître Vincent Lurquin, lawyer at the Brussels Bar, declares that they are now acting as a civil party against: The airline company GainJet Aviation, whose registered office is at Vouliagmenis Avenue & 1 Themistokleous st, 16674, Glyfada, Athens, Greece ; Mr. Constantin Niyomwungere, of Belgian nationality, and X.
The complaint is made further to the prejudices contained in Belgian law on the facts of: Hostage-taking, kidnapping and any other that the investigation would reveal; of which X, the company GainJet Aviation and Mr. Constantin Niyomwungere became co-authors or accomplices against Mr. Paul RUSESABAGINA
The complaint, which dates from January 14, 2021, finds its basis in the evidential facts and rights surrounding this case which endangers the Rwandan judicial system or quite simply the entire system of the Kagame regime.
In fact, the corroborating facts have established that it was against his will that Paul Rusesabagina was brought to Rwanda. He was kidnapped with the complicity of Pastor Constantin Niyomwungere, of the Gainjet airline but also with full knowledge of the facts by the Rwandan authorities as President Kagame straightly admitted it in a press conference he held on August 30 in Kigali.
Regarding rights, the acts committed against Paul Rusesabagina are first recognized as crimes in Belgian, Rwandan and even United Arab Emirates courts. These acts of kidnapping, hostage-taking and torture have been strongly criticized by international human rights organizations such as Human Right Watch. In addition, Belgian law recognizes extraterritorial power over Belgian citizens in its courts. This implies that both Paul Rusesabagina and Constantin Niyomwungere can be brought before the Belgian courts to respond, each of the indictments brought against him. These facts listed in the Belgian code are, namely: 1) Acts of hostage-taking (article 347bis Penal Code, (now PC), 2) acts of murder and aggravated murder (articles 393 to 397 and 475 PC), 3 ) acts of serious violation of international humanitarian law (articles 136bis to 136octies PC), and finally 4) acts of terrorist offense (articles 137 and following PC).
There is a kind of remark in the complaint, saying that “In this case, Mr. RUSESABAGINA is not the only one concerned. His illegal arrest and extradition to Rwanda reveal the will of the Paul Kagame regime to suppress a political opponent, but also aim to exert pressure on a third party. Paul RUSESABAGINA is not only an opponent; he is also someone who opposed the genocide.
Hutu, he saved hundreds of Tutsis with a courage hailed by numerous honorary distinctions received from the highest moral and political authorities around the world. Kidnapping and arresting in this way Mr. RUSESABAGINA is a clear sign addressed to the entire Hutu community: power cannot be shared. ”
The hostage-taking of Rusesabagina has resulted in detention and kidnapping in Rwanda, which is “continuous”. It is therefore clear that the hostage-taking of Mr. RUSESABAGINA took place in several countries, including Rwanda.
Consequently, it should be considered that the incriminated facts correspond to the legal definitions of the offenses for which it is possible, as underlined above, as a Belgian victim, to bring his case before the national courts even in the absence of the accused in the territory.
International civil society
“The HRW Organization: On 09/10/2020 HRW denounces the violation of international law in the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina, a fierce critic of the Kigali regime. Briefly, the NGO for the defense of human rights says that the Rwandan government arrested a leading critic of the RPF regime on 08/31/2020. The arrest culminated in kidnapping, a serious violation of international law. Rwanda is asked to guarantee this political opponent, Paul Rusesabagina, the free choice of lawyers and regular consultation with his family. It must allow him to exercise his rights to question or challenge the legality of his arrest before an independent tribunal in accordance with international standards.
“Rwanda’s track record in using illegal and underhanded methods to target those the ruling party perceives as a threat is well known. Rwanda’s failure to apprehend Rusesabagina using a legal extradition procedure suggests that authorities do not believe their evidence or guarantees of a fair trial would withstand scrutiny by an independent tribunal, leading them to circumvent the rule of law,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Thus, relying on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which stipulates that no one may be sent to a country where there are serious grounds for believing that he could be tortured or ill-treated, HRW urges the Belgian government to open an investigation on the transfer of Rusesabagina to Rwanda.
“The handling of this case by the Rwandan authorities so far has ignored many protections under international law, raising serious concerns for the well-being of Rusesabagina and respect for his right to a fair trial in Rwanda. The gravity of the charges against Rusesabagina does not give the Rwandan authorities the right to resort to the crime of enforced disappearance and ignore due process and international standards for fair trials, “added Lewis.
On 03/02/2021, HRW published a document according to which an apparent error confirmed what the whole world already knows: whoever criticizes the government [Rwandan Editor’s note], cannot have a fair trial in Rwanda. In a video recording, Rwandan Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye, admitted the role of the government in the kidnapping, illegal transfer, and violation of the rights of Rusesabagina, whose terrorism trial began on February 17, 2021
The EDELSTAM FOUNDATION Organization:
This Foundation sent, on June 1, 2021, a letter to President Paul KAGAME asking him for the release of Paul Rusesabagina, an esteemed human rights activist and member of the Edelstam Founfation organization . Mr. Rusesabagina was kidnapped, sequestered in secret for 3 days, is now in prison more than 260 days ago reported the Foundation today in Stockholm, this happened without any arrest warrant or Interpol warrant against Mr. Rusesabagina. In addition to this, the Rwandan government has repeatedly violated his rights by torturing him or restricting access to his lawyers. The foundation reports that Rusesabagina is the subject of 9 charges, the most serious of which is terrorism.
The New York Times article from February 16, 2021 indicates that the charges against Rusesabagina revolve around his involvement in the MRCD (Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change), a movement he founded with the FLN as an armed wing. But Professor Brian Endless advisor in the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, informed that these movements operate separately and that Rusesabagina no longer participated in the MRCD. Even more when the attacks of which he is accused took place, Rusesabagina himself asked the UN to investigate on this. Here we cannot fail to point out that some say that these attacks are a perniciously cynical simulacrum prepared by the Kigali regime to exacerbate the accusations against Burundi. In addition on April 29, 2021, the testimonies of Herman Nsengimana and Marc Nzeyimana, co-accused of Rusesabagina, revealed that Rusesabagaina was never the head of the FLN, that they were under orders from General Wilson Irategeka.
In its letter the Foundation states that there are United Nations Minimum Rules for Imprisonment, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, on solitary confinement which must not exceed 15 days. The Rwandan government for its part confines Mr. Rusesabagina over 260 days with more than 22.5 hours per day according to Kitty Kurth, Communication and Strategy Advisor at Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation. Moreover, Rusesabagina suffers from heart problems which requires medical follow-up, but the prison services have reportedly confiscated the medical documents given to him by the Belgian Embassy in Kigali. Based on all this EDELSTAM Foundation sent a letter to President Kagame asking him for the release of Paul Rusesabagina.
The LANTOS FOUNDATION organization:
On July 7, 2021, The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights Organization calls for the application of The Magnitsky Law in the Rusesabagina case. Lantos Foundation announces that it has formally submitted to the State Department and Treasury Department a recommendation to apply the sanctions of The Magnitsky Law against the Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye and the Head of the Rwandan Office of Investigation (RIB ), Colonel Jeannot Ruhunga for their role in the violation of human rights committed against Paul Rusesabagina, in particular in his extraordinary kidnapping in August 2020 following criticism of the Kagame regime who is perceived by everyone like a brutal dictator. The responsibility of two Rwandan officials in the kidnapping of Paul Rusesabagina is no longer questionable because it was confirmed by the words of Minister Johnston Busingye in an interview, he gave to Al Jazeera television in February 2021. The foundation is indignant that “For too long the appalling actions of the Rwandan government under the leadership of Paul Kagame have gone unanswered”
The United States take into account the value of the citizen
Let us recall here in passing the considerations, or better still, the fundamental values that make the United States great: America; the American and the Dollars. In short, an exacerbated patriotism tending towards nationalism, the protection of the American citizen and the dollars. These values are instilled in young Yankees from an early age, making Americans hereditary arrogance. To attack the American citizen is to attack the American state. A single American citizen can provoke a cataclysm of an entire nation that attacks him, because failure to intervene to free an American citizen is an indelible affront to the state. It is this base which constitutes a tireless war of the United States for Rusesabagina, American citizen not ordinary because honored by a presidential medal. Kagame has declared war on the United States! Alea iacta est!
And the counterattacks will be done slowly to give Kagame time to think about the danger he is facing. First in a posted tweet, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said he discussed the arrest with Rwandan Ambassador to the United States Mathilde Mukantabana and that he expected from the Rwandan government to “provide Rusesabagina with an impartial and transparent judicial process”.
And here, Kagame has always assured, that the legal proceedings against the suspect would be transparent: “We know how to handle this. It will be done in the open for those who are interested in transparency, fairness, etc. We believe that it is also our duty to do so. I think people shouldn’t be worried about it.”
But he doesn’t fail to point out, “So I don’t see why people are making all this noise. He is in court, he is not in hiding somewhere, he is in court like many others. But he speaks while forgetting that he arrested the child of the master of the world. A leader who can directly or indirectly cause the damage.
The whole crux of Rusesabagina’s problem is in fact around her arrest, which even many friends of Kigali did not tolerate because they consider it to be a kidnapping, which therefore constitutes a violation of human rights and a serious breach of criminal procedure. This also marks the lack of confidence that Kigali has for the host states of Rusesabagina, among which the United States and Belgium of which it is respectively a permanent resident and a citizen. Kagame said; “Who has trouble setting up a criminal?” When you find him, what do you do with him? You are taking him to court, isn’t that legally acceptable? “
“Of course, I call on a fair trial on my side. It’s not the UK or the US or the European Union. No, I want to see a fair trial too. Why? Yeah, you know, that’s how people say crazy things and end up being racist. It’s like saying, the only way to be fair in Africa or Rwanda is for it to be monitored by Europe, the United States, or some other country. Not at all “.
In the interview with Jeune Afrique on 05/25/2021, Kagame’s response to the international community on this subject makes goosebumps grow: “There are two very distinct aspects to this affair. The first is the process that brought Rusesabagina to Kigali. The second is whether Rusesabagina is guilty or not. We must stop mixing the two. If it is established that he was illegally arrested, then it would be possible to argue about it, make it a separate procedure and debate it. But if, on the other hand, someone tells you that this same Rusesabagina has belonged for several years to a terrorist group that is attacking Rwanda. That this is supported by evidence that is being presented right now in a court of law cannot be ignored. There are even statements where he boasts of being the leader of one of these groups operating in the DRC or Burundi. If the United States or Belgium, where he had lived for several years, had wanted to sue for these facts, we would have provided them with the same evidence ”. “Because he was allegedly arrested in an ‘illegal’ manner, he should be released, while this terrorist group has killed people in Rwanda? I would prefer the two cases to be dealt with separately. Or those who say so have to prove he was illegally arrested. If a case is open, fine, we will argue. But he must also be judged for what he is suspected in Rwanda. If he is innocent, he will be free. If he is guilty he will be convicted. If people think he was arrested because he was a hero, a status he was given thanks to what was originally supposed to be a fictional film, it shows their level of laziness,” he said.
It is these arrogant and scorning responses as well that Paul Kagame gives to the international community. And especially in the United States, which claims to be champions of human rights, if one remembers the context in which Baraka Obama and Congress concluded the Magnitsky Law in 2012. The case of Sergei Magnitsky is a good one very similar to that of Paul Rusesabagina but the latter has more prerogatives because he is a permanent resident of the United States, doubly rewarded by the American presidency as an activist for freedom and human rights! Congress carried out a commendable approach to write to Kagame a letter asking him to unconditionally release Paul Rusesabagina and send him to his family safe and sound, Kagame turned a deaf ear.
In the letter dated December 18, 2020, Members of the United States Congress write the following to Kagame:
“We are writing to urge you to return safe and sound Paul Rusesabagina, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to the United States to join his family. As Members who have a great attachment to the relations between the United States and Rwanda, we believe that the release of Mr. Rusesabagina on humanitarian grounds is at the same time justifiable and appropriate given that he is struggling with cancer during this period pandemic, and that he suffers from a lot of chronic diseases”. The Letter goes on to say that liberating Rusesabagina is also useful for the cooperation of two countries but more especially for the image of Rwanda. This letter from 36 Members of Congress, addressed to Kagame, was never answered. All answer was to justify that Rusesabagina committed crimes against the Rwandans, an attitude which undermines the principle of presumption of innocence.
Six months after just June 23, 2021, 41 members of Congress write a letter, this time addressed to the US Secretary of State, asking him to take charge of the ongoing case of Rusesabagina, held by the government of Rwanda, urging him thus to use all diplomatic means available to ensure his healthy return to the United States.
The letter denounces the espionage carried out by Rwandan Embassy agents in the United States and more specifically gives the State Department a challenge to protect Rwandans living in the United States who may be subject to harassment, intimidation or extrajudicial violence of the Kigali regime. Another letter which accuses the Kigali regime to exert espionage and even capable of committing other crimes, a letter which once again will embarrass Kagame! But as we know, the risks of his sanctions against Kigali do not scare him because he has built an empire of wealth around him.
The whole world is waiting with impatience for the end of the Rusesagagina case. For in fact, the case revealed the true nature of the Kigali regime: a dictatorial regime, which kidnaps, sequesters and kills any dissident soul, brandishing genocide against the Tutsi. It is noteworthy to found out that the attacks in southern Rwanda are just scenarios well hatched by Kagame to become a victim and continue to accuse Burundi. But the American counterattack is capable of changing this arrogant attitude that Kagame has developed over the days in full view of everyone. Kagame is already known. Economic sanctions are not desirable because only the popular mass, mainly Hutu, would suffer. Two paths can be foreseen.
The first is that we must leave Kagame in his logic of revenge but with demands that will leave his regime weak: such as the opening of political space. Or to fit him as a champion of justice, we can open many files of massacres committed after his army, the RPF and especially the Mapping report. Now that Rusesabagina’s trial continues inexorably with the requisition of the life jail, we need only ask the international community to make Kagame pay for the crimes he even admitted to have committed. And the Rome Statute should be revised to end the impunity due to diplomatic immunity because it is the umbrella of dictators, tyrants. As for Rwandan justice, it can be gauged through the prism of the Rusesabagina trial, which the prosecution and Kagame everywhere treat as a criminal even before the verdict has fallen. A trial that infringes all standards of criminal proceedings, starting with the arrest of the defendant, a kidnapping that Kagame defends with dagger drawn, by treating the critics as “insane words”. However, a lesson has been learned once and for all: the adversary should not be underestimated. By kidnapping Rusesabagina, Kagame thought he had fallen on a lamb when it was a lion cub capable of biting! As it stands, the Kagame regime is a total loser, the trial was a drop of water that broke the camel’s back, it preludes the worst. Thus “Such is taken, who believed to take!” “