The UN Needs to Live Up to Its Mission and Help Free Rwandan Hero Rusesabagina

CHICAGO – Dec. 9, 2020 – Today the United Nations (UN) commemorates “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime” or “Genocide Prevention Day.” Today is also the 72nd Anniversary of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention of Genocide. If the UN means what they say, they need to right the wrong that sent the hero of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide to jail. They need to take a stand for Paul Rusesabagina, whose life story of saving 1,268 people was told in the movie Hotel Rwanda, and pressure Rwandan President Paul Kagame to send him home.

In late August, in violation of international law, Kagame had Rusesabagina kidnapped, tortured, and taken to Rwanda where he was arrested on trumped up charges and thrown in jail, where he remains. Rusesabagina was denied access to his lawyers for months. He has been denied visits by the Red Cross. The UN needs to stand up to this international law violation. He is a Belgian citizen and permanent resident of the U.S. Rwanda has no jurisdiction over him.

Rusesabagina has spent his time since 1994 as a humanitarian and speaker raising awareness about what happened in Rwanda during the Genocide so that Never Again can mean Never Again. Not another Holocaust. Not another Genocide in Rwanda, or Armenia, or Cambodia, or Cameroon, or anywhere. Rusesabagina educates students and adults about the need to create sustainable peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa and around the globe with the hope of preventing Genocide and mass atrocities.

The UN uses what happened in 1994 as a teaching tool. Their website says, “by learning the lessons of the genocide in order to help prevent similar acts in the future, and supporting survivors, by raising awareness of the lasting impact of the genocide, particularly on widows, orphans and victims of sexual violence, and the challenges that they still face today.” The best way to support survivors and learn the lessons of that tragedy is not to ignore Rusesabagina today.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) during the Rwandan genocide, and he has said that one of his biggest regrets was not doing more to help Rwanda at that time. While the world looked on, more than 800,000 people were murdered. Rusesabagina’s courage and resolve stand out in the face of the cowardice and inaction of the UN and international community.

As the world faces possible genocides around the planet, if the UN wants to remain relevant, it needs to stand up for heroes who fight back against this heinous crime. It needs to work to free Paul Rusesabagina.



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