CHICAGO – Feb. 26, 2021 — Today, a Chamber of the High Court Chamber for International Crimes ruled that it was competent and has jurisdiction to hear the case against Paul Rusesabagina, and held “it is not relevant to talk about how he was arrested or detained.” With this statement, the court completely circumvented any discussion or ruling about Paul’s illegal rendition to Rwanda and obliterated any possibility of a fair trial.
Paul Rusesabagina argued before the Rwanda Court that his kidnapping meant that the court could not try him. The Court ruled: “The Chamber does not find it relevant to talk about how he was arrested or detained.” By sticking their heads in the sand, and ignoring the violations of international law that brought Mr. Rusesabagina forcibly into a Kigali courtroom, the Rwandan Court demonstrated that it is incapable of administering impartial and independent justice.
Courts around the world have routinely refused to try people, citizen or not, that were brought illegally, through kidnapping or extrajudicial means, before them. Rendition techniques such as kidnapping and abduction, conducted outside formal treaty processes, represent a grave violation of international law. Independent judges across the world have refused to hear cases in these circumstances, in order to promote confidence in and respect for the administration of justice and preserve the judicial process from contamination from illegal actions of agents of the state. Courts of other Commonwealth countries such as the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, Namibia, South Africa and others, have routinely refused to try people who were illegally brought before them by agents of the State in circumstances similar to Mr. Rusesabagina.
There is no doubt that Paul Rusesabagina was brought to Rwanda against his will. As he told the Court during his hearing on 17 February 2021, “I am here as a hostage.” The kidnapping was planned and executed “flawlessly” by the Rwandan government.
This was confirmed by Mr. Constantin Niyomwungere (“the Bishop”) who flew with Paul to Rwanda. Mr. Niyomwungere confirmed the role of the Rwandan Investigative Bureau (RIB) in the kidnapping and illegal rendition of the defendant to Rwanda, confirming that it was the RIB that sent “the private jet to take us to Kigali,” and saying that “I collaborated with RIB to get him here. That is why you are seeing us here today.”
Mr. Niyomwungere’s story was confirmed by the Rwandan President Paul Kagame in an interview to Mr Richard Quest of CNN which aired on 17 February 2021, in which the President said that “the [Rwandan] government was working with the person he trusted” in bringing the Defendant to Rwanda. It was also confirmed by the Secretary General of Rwanda’s National Intelligence and Security Service, Mr Joseph Nzabamwita in an interview with The New York Times on 18 February 2021, who called Mr Rusesabagina’s kidnapping “one of the best operations that any country has ever conducted” and boasted that he personally had “executed from the planning to the full execution when he landed in Kigali.”
It is now indisputable that agents of the Rwandan state were involved in Mr Rusesabagina’s kidnapping and that there was a plot to lure him to Rwanda against his will. The issue is a simple one: regardless of Paul Rusesabagina’s nationality, a court cannot exercise jurisdiction over someone who has been brought illegally before a court by the illegal actions of state agents.
All of this was ignored. The Judges of the High Court Chamber did not even attempt to address it. They swept this central issue under the carpet without discussion and ruled that the trial should immediately begin. This inexplicable decision, entirely inconsistent with fundamental principles of the rule of law as recognized by civilized nations, is the clearest indication yet that the trial will be nothing more than a piece of theatre, for which the script has already been written.
Background: Paul Rusesabagina, an internationally renowned humanitarian who saved the lives of 1,268 people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide whose story is told in the movie Hotel Rwanda, has regularly criticized human rights violations and a lack of democracy in Rwanda while working for an internationally sanctioned truth and reconciliation process and sustainable peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. He was kidnapped by the government of Rwanda on August 27 and taken to Kigali, where he is currently held in prison. Rwandan President Kagame is a dictator who does not tolerate dissent, who slanders and intimidates critics of his government, including calling them “terrorists,” and who has a long record of imprisoning and even killing those he considers to be critics or political opponents.