Big Questions about Belgian Foreign Minister’s Answers to Parliament

CHICAGO – Dec. 11, 2020 – The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmes was asked questions in Parliament about Paul Rusesabagina and gave the following answers. The content of her answers has stunned Paul’s family and the #FreeRusesabagina movement.

First of all, she said that the circumstances of the arrest are not yet fully established. Isn’t that exactly what the Belgian Government should be demanding answers about? Aren’t they supposed to stand up for Belgian citizens? Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped in Dubai. Does the Belgian government have ANY reason to believe he would get on a plane, of his own free will, and go to a country he knew would arrest him because he is a critic of that government? If not, then they are believing the story of the Rwandan government. If there are doubts, then they should demand the return of their citizen based on these doubts, and investigate independently. Waiting for the trial to “clarify” things is simply taking the side of the Rwandan government.

How can Belgium stand idly by when one of their citizens is kidnapped and arrested without any arrest warrant, extradiation, or legal procedures followed? How can they stand by when torture is alleged and the report published in the New York Times? The process up until now has been completely riddled with illegal acts and no regard for the rule of law, and there is no reason to believe that this will change. How could the trial shed any light on what happened when the Rwandans have not shown any indication that will follow the rule of law so far?

Second, unless Belgium is siding with his captors, under international law all of the current evidence points to the fact that Paul Rusesabagina should be released before any trial is held. Paul described in court on November 27 how he was kidnapped and tortured for several days. Isn’t Belgium a signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture? Given the circumstances, international law dictates that there can be no fair trial.

Third, either the Foriegn Minister is lying to Parliament, or her staff is lying to her. According to what the Foreign Ministry staff told the Rusesabagina family, and what Paul told his family, Paul has never received his medication. While the Belgian consular staff may have turned Paul’s medications over to his Rwandan captors, they never made it to Paul. Ensuring that medical needs are cared for is among the minimum items that an embassy should accomplish when dealing with one of their nationals in a foreign prison.

“To be clear, international law says that you cannot kidnap a Belgian citizen, tie him up, torture him and hold him incommunicado for three days. You can not deny him access to his lawyers for weeks. You cannot deny him access to medication. By not demanding that the Rwandans follow the law and release Rusesabagina, the Belgians are just as complicit in the violation of international law. We knew that there was no justice in Rwanda. We are beginning to fear the same about Belgium,” said Carine Kanimba.

Rwanda – Paul Rusesabagina – Response from the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmes

This file is getting my full attention. Mr. Rusesabagina has Belgian nationality and therefore receives full consular assistance from Belgium.

The Belgian Embassy in Kigali has already been able to carry out three consular visits, on September 7 and 17, as well as on October 26. During the second visit, medicine, passed on by his family, was given to him. During the third visit, the Belgian consul was able to talk to him alone.

Foreign Affairs is also in constant contact with Mr. Rusesabagina’s family as well as with his Belgian lawyer. The procedures are therefore carried out in full consultation with them.

As in any consular file, a certain discretion is required. Belgium currently has free consular access to Mr. Rusesabagina and the Rwandan authorities are reacting favorably to requests in this regard.

As for the arrest itself, the circumstances are not yet fully established. We hope that the trial will shed light on them.

Belgium will plead tirelessly for Mr. Paul Rusesabagina to benefit from a fair, transparent and equitable trial, with full respect for the rights of the defense. Belgium will not fail to remind the interlocutors of this, should it prove necessary.



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