By: Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation
CHICAGO – Dec. 7, 2020 – PRLog — Last week, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy of the United States State Department had a meeting with the Rwandan Ambassador to the United States. He said in a tweet that the United States is watching Paul Rusesabagina’s situation closely. His statement said that they will “continue to urge the Rwandan government to uphold the rule of law during the trial of U.S. lawful permanent resident Paul Rusesabagina.The U.S. is following the case closely.”
While the Rusesabagina family is deeply grateful that the United States is following Paul’s case, the idea that any country or any person believes that there is any possibility of a fair trial that upholds the rule of law is not credible.
The question is not whether Rwanda will uphold the rule of law, but when will the United States and Belgium stand up for international law and demand Paul Rusesabagina’s immediate release?
Rusesabagina is the internationally beloved human rights hero whose story of saving over 1,268 people during the Rwandan genocide was told in the film Hotel Rwanda. He has touched countless lives, fought for freedom, and spoken out for dignity and justice across the world. He is a Belgian citizen and legal permanent resident in the United States and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush.
More than three months ago, Paul Rusesabagina was abducted and disappeared to Rwanda from Dubai. He is currently illegally detained in prison in Kigali.
The Rwandan government has not upheld the rule of law at any point of Paul Rusesabagina’s situation. There is no indication that they will start now as it heads to trial. There has been no fairness, there has been no justice, there has been no respect for international law at any step of the way.
The “rule of law” that Ambassador Nagy urged Rwanda to uphold has already been violated over and over again in this case:
• Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped, illegally brought to Rwanda, bound and blindfolded, tortured and held incommunicado for three days. This alone should lead to demands for his release, since there can be no “legal” process after this treatment.
• Paul had no access to a lawyer for days when he was arrested. Then he was forced to use lawyers assigned by the Rwandan government who did not represent his best interests in court. He did not have access to real legal counsel, the Rwandan lawyer that his family hired for him, for over two months.
• Paul was arrested without due process or the arrest papers required by Rwanda’s own laws. Six days into his attention, Rwanda President Paul Kagame said that the plan to kidnap Paul was “flawless” and also prejudged Paul’s guilt in a press conference. That is not in keeping with the rule of law.
• Paul’s trial is now linked to 17 co-defendants who he has never met. These individuals, who do not have outside counsel or the attention of the world, are likely to be treated to the conditions for which Rwanda is infamous. This will undoubtedly include forced confessions and testimony against Paul. Many international observers have reported that this is standard practice in Rwanda, including Human Rights Watch in their 2017 report “We Will Force You to Confess: Torture and Unlawful Military Detention in Rwanda (https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/10/10/we-will-force-you-c…).”
• The charges have been made public and the evidence given points to false charges similar to those leveled against Paul Rusesabagina by Paul Kagame in the past that have been refuted and rejected by the international community.
The trial date has now been set for January 26th. Paul’s Rwandan lawyer, Gatera Gashabana, has only been allowed to see Paul three times. His international lawyers are still being prevented from gaining access to Paul. He will be allowed no more in person visits before the trial because of COVID restrictions. Even if they get to a trial, every indication is that it will follow the illegal processes in play so far, and have nothing to do with the rule of law.
The international community knows that Rwanda will fail to uphold the rule of law here. But reporters continue to ask Paul’s team: what are the United States and Belgium doing about it? They are urging Rwanda to uphold the rule of law, which we know they will not do based on history and the case so far. The United States needs to ask Rwanda to free Paul Rusesabagina immediately. And they need to ask Belgium to do the same.