International Counsel for Rwandan Humanitarian Reject Claims of Lawyer in Rwanda Who Says He was Hired to Represent Him
CHICAGO – Sep. 6, 2020 – Paul Rusesabagina has been held incommunicado for nine days since being abducted from Dubai on August 28th. For the last several days, the lawyer for Paul Rusesabagina in Rwanda has been denied access to Paul. Additionally, Rusesabagina has had no consular visits, no Red Cross visits and no communication allowed from his family.
Yesterday in Rwanda, a person unknown to the Rusesabagina family put on a sham press conference saying that he is the lawyer that Paul Rusesabagina has chosen. THAT IS NOT TRUE. This is another travesty of justice that the international community must not tolerate.
Paul Rusesabagina is a Belgian citizen who was brought illegally to Rwanda and is a victim of extraordinary rendition. Paul did not voluntarily come to Rwanda and no extradition process was followed.
Today in Rwanda, President Kagame admitted to exactly that – and in fact said that his plan for extraordinary rendition “worked flawlessly.”
Belgian and US officials need to act now. Jared Genser, the newly-hired international pro bono counsel for Mr. Rusesagabina said that “They need to know that unlike US law, under international law, there is an “abuse of process” doctrine and legal precedent for requiring that a person who is kidnapped or brought involuntarily to a country should be released and his case dismissed.”
The process playing out right now in Rwanda is a kangaroo court process that the United States and Belgium can not condone.
Rusesabagina’s family has chosen an expert team of international human rights lawyers to represent him:
Gatera Gashabana, Rwanda
Vincent Lurquin, Belgium
Kate Gibson, Australia
Peter Robinson, United States
Jared Genser and Brian Tronic, United States
Philippe Larochelle, Canada
Paul’s family is shocked and outraged that there is a lawyer claiming publicly to represent him. Paul was abducted, disappeared, and the victim of an extraordinary rendition from Dubai to Rwanda on August 28th. For nine days, he has been held totally incommunicado. He has been denied access to his chosen local counsel who has repeatedly been turned away at the police station, to all family, and to the Government of Belgium, from which he has a right to a consular visit as a Belgian citizen.
There is no way Paul Rusesabagina would interview and voluntarily hire this lawyer without consulting with his own family first, let alone instruct him to hold a press conference without connecting with them in advance.
More importantly Mr. David Rugaza, the Rwandan lawyer who claims to represent Rusesabagina, is really just advancing the interests of the Government, as he said he welcomed representing Paul Rusesabagina in court. The “press conference” was held only in Kinyarwanda with only state media in attendance. This is unacceptable in a high profile international case.
Genser argues that “If he were really representing Paul, this would be a stunning and unforgivable act of gross malpractice. Any competent lawyer at the first press conference would reject any legal proceeding in Rwanda as invalid and ultra vires because it emanated from an illegal extraordinary rendition and call for Paul’s immediate and unconditional release.” Paul’s family calls upon the international community to demand the Government of Rwanda end this sham and immediately allow local counsel, the Red Cross and the Embassy of Belgium to visit him in prison.
On Friday August 28, 2020, Paul Rusesabagina was abducted and disappeared from Dubai and subjected to an extraordinary rendition to Rwanda. The Rwanda Bureau of Investigation claimed in a tweet on Monday August 31, 2020, that he was arrested through “international cooperation,” yet the United Arab Emirates strenuously objected. They said there is no agreement between UAE and Rwanda relating to extraditions and that he left on a private plane. Meanwhile, that same day, police officers brought him to their headquarters in Kigali and marched him in front of the media. Yet nine days after his abduction, disappearance, and extraordinary rendition, he continues to be held incommunicado.
According to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: “Secret and/or incommunicado detention constitutes the most heinous violation of the norm protecting the right to liberty of a human being under customary international law. The arbitrariness is inherent in these forms of deprivation of liberty as the individual is left outside the cloak of any legal protection.” In addition, there are already a wide array of ways in which Mr. Rusesagabina’s abduction, disappearance, extraordinary rendition, and ongoing detention already violates both Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty to which both are state parties. Mr. Rusesabagina’s team will shortly file a formal complaint at the United Nations against Rwanda in relation to this situation and the violations of both domestic and international law in his case.
Paul Rusesabagina is a 66 year old citizen of Belgium and resident of the United States. His family is deeply concerned about his health and safety in prison. In addition to his age, Paul is a cancer survivor and suffers from a heart condition and hypertension, both requiring ongoing medication. Beyond the legal issues, the family urges Paul’s release on compassionate grounds.
Background – The Rusesabagina Legal Team
Gatera Gashabana, Rwanda – He was born in Kalehe, DRC, in 1957 and studied law at the University of Kinshasa and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Law, 1985. He was Court Appeal of Kinshasa Gombe between 1986 until 1998. He has been registered as an Attorney in Rwanda Bar Association since October 1999. He was elected as the President of the Rwandan Bar Association in August 2006 – 2008. He is also registered as an Advocate before the International Criminal Law and the MIRCT. Today, Gatera is a consultant to several Kigali organizations: practices commercial, civil, societies, labor, financial and criminal law. He speaks both French and English.
Vincent Lurquin, Belgium – A Belgian political leader and an internationally acclaimed lawyer who fights for human rights, refugees, and migrants, as well as serving as a criminal defense lawyer in cases with implications for the global good. Originally educated at the Royal Athenaeum in Koelkelberg, he then obtained a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Philosophy before entering the legal field. He has been registered with the Brussels Bar since 1983. Throughout his career, he has been dedicated to civil rights and justice, starting with his work with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1999 to his management of legal representation for victims in the International Criminal Court. He also participated in the founding of the Citizen Network which aims to strengthen the rule of law in countries such as Rwanda, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%A9publique_d%C3%A9mocr…). He continues to serve in the Brussels Parliament and is devoted to international legal work for the advancement of justice, truth, and human rights.
Kate Gibson, Australia – Has been practicing before international criminal courts and tribunals since 2005, representing accused in cases involving Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Between 2009 and 2018, she was co-counsel of Former Vice-President of the DRC, Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba who was acquitted of all charges by the ICC Appeals Chamber. She also represents Rohingya victims in the Myanmar/Bangladesh situation at the ICC. Previously, she was the co-counsel of President Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the Co-Counsel for President Radovan Karadžić before the UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. At the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Kate was Lead Counsel of Minister Justin Mugenzi and Legal Assistant to General Gratien Kabiligi who were both acquitted of all charges. She is currently the Vice-President of the Association of Defence Counsel in The Hague and holds an LL.M in International Law from Cambridge University.
Peter Robinson, United States – An American lawyer who has defended persons accused at the International Criminal Court and international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia for the past 20 years. He most recently served as Lead Counsel to former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic. Prior to beginning work at the international tribunals, Mr. Robinson was a federal prosecutor in the United States for 10 years, and then a criminal defense lawyer based in Northern California.
Jared Genser, United States – is Managing Director of Perseus Strategies, a public interest law firm, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. Referred to by the New York Times as “The Extractor” for his work freeing political prisoners, he was previously a partner in the government affairs practice of DLA Piper LLP and a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. He will be co-Executive Director of a dramatic TV series that he recently sold with actor and producer Orlando Bloom to Amazon Studios for Prime Video (150 million viewers worldwide). His past clients have included former Czech Republic President Václav Havel and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Liu Xiaobo, Desmond Tutu, and Elie Wiesel. He holds a B.S. from Cornell University, an M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was an Alumni Public Service Fellow, and a J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. His most recent book is The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Commentary and Guide to Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2019). He was a recipient of the American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Award.
Brian Tronic, United States – Counsel at Perseus Strategies. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia, where he double-majored in Math and Philosophy. After law school, he clerked for two years in the Vermont Superior Court, and then moved to South India to work at a human rights organization through the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India. He then served as the Crowley Fellow in International Human Rights at Fordham Law School, an Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School (India), and the Supervising Attorney and Teaching Fellow at the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at the Georgetown Law Center. He is a member of the Massachusetts bar and the District of Columbia bar.
Philippe Larochelle, Canada – is one of the founding partners of Larochelle Avocats, a firm specializing in litigation based in Montreal, Canada. He has extensive experience in civil, criminal and Aboriginal law, both before Canadian and international courts. Since 1998, Mr. Larochelle has developed a private practice focusing on civil and criminal law before the Superior Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. Since 2001, he has also practiced in international criminal law, representing clients before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Tanzania), the International Criminal Court (The Netherlands) and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (The Netherlands). He has also published articles on the subject in both French and English.