The Trial of Paul Rusesabagina was Widely Decried as Completely Unfair. Why is he Still in Jail?

By: Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation
CHICAGOOct. 29, 2021PRLog — While the world agrees that the Sham Trial of Paul Rusesabagina in Rwanda systematically violated his fair trial rights, his captivity and torturous conditions continue. Why aren’t Belgium and United States authorities stepping up to bring Paul home now?

Paul Rusesabagina has now been in a Rwandan jail for more than 430 days since his capture in August of 2020. He was kept in a torture house for four days at the beginning of his imprisonment, and his torture continues today through solitary confinement and lack of access to the outside world.

The UN’s Mandela Rules set the standard for human rights in the treatment of prisoners. These rules list 15 days as the maximum that a prisoner may be held in solitary confinement, and anything after that is considered torture. Paul was in formal solitary confinement, with no one around by guards, in a locked room with very little light, for just over 250 days. Since his family made his conditions public, the Rwandan government said that they moved him out of solitary, but it turns out that his new conditions still amount to solitary confinement.

For example, while Paul is now in a block of cells with other inmates, he is not allowed to talk with them at any time. It is clear to him that the other inmates have been told not to talk with him, including when he is allowed to go to church once a week. Even though he is no longer locked into an isolated box, the lack of any meaningful human interaction means that his conditions of detention still meet the legal definition of solitary confinement, and thus torture.

The real question, given the continued injustices, is why hasn’t the world stepped up to free Paul Rusesabagina? The world press, global legal sources, and the Belgian and US governments all acknowledged the massive injustice involved in this case just after Paul’s verdict was read. Stories and press releases abounded. And now the world has slowed or stopped their actions.

Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes was especially supportive in Paul’s case, but the Belgian government has now been relatively silent and returned to more bureaucratic answers when the topic is discussed. During consular visits by Belgian officials, they are not even allowed to bring documents to Paul, since he is barred from receiving any documents even though this is allowed in Rwandan law. The Belgians have also discussed bringing in a Belgian doctor to confirm Paul’s health situation, again as allowed in international law, but they have not pushed the Rwandan government to make this a reality.

Similarly, the EU Parliament has also made fantastic statements of support for Paul and has pressed for his release. But, the EU Commission is failing to even recognize the injustices seen by the rest of the world.

The world community, especially the United States and Belgium where Paul is a permanent resident and citizen, need to step up NOW to free Paul Rusesabagina, before it is too late. The time for talk is over, it is now time for action.

Paul is a 67 year old man with hypertension. He is not allowed access to his prescribed medications. Instead he receives a Rwandan substitute which has done nothing to treat or alleviate his symptoms. He is visibly and obviously suffering from high blood pressure symptoms, including headaches and dizziness. It is well established that these symptoms are stressed even further as an expected effect of solitary confinement. Paul’s Belgian doctor has now twice provided information that he is concerned that Paul’s condition could all-too-easily lead to a stroke. Nothing is being done about the doctor’s concerns.

The more important condition now is Paul’s need for regular cancer screenings. He is a cancer survivor and has now missed two years worth of screenings. While Rwandan medical facilities can do basic cancer tests, Paul needs advanced procedures like a PETScan that do not exist in Rwanda. Most Rwandan elites and officials leave the country to go to Europe or the US for these types of tests when needed. A repeat of Paul’s cancer while in custody, which is not unlikely, could be a death sentence that comes much more quickly than his unjust 25 year conviction.

Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped and brought to Rwanda against his will. He was tortured for four days, and the torturous conditions of solitary confinement continue. He faced a Sham Trial with no credible evidence presented, leading to a Sham conviction. And now a 67 year old Belgian citizen and US Permanent Resident, who was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, sits in a Rwandan jail cell. In one of the worst prison systems in the world.

The Belgian and US governments need to act immediately to #FreeRusesabagina. Before it is too late, and his death is on everyone’s hands.


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Kitty Kurth