KIGALI, Rwanda – March 25, 2021 — As he announced on March 12, Paul Rusesabagina removed himself from his trial and is not in court today. In addition to the defendant, there were many things missing in court today. Decency. Fairness. Truth. Justice. The rule of law.
Thus far, there are no independent credible witnesses against Paul Ruesesabagina. The first witness was on the Rwandan Government payroll, and the second is a former detainee and now professional witness, who was also used to testify against Kagame’s political opponent Victoire Ingabire. Neither has said anything to prove or address any of the accusations against Paul Rusesabagina in this trial.
Rusesabagina sent a letter to the judges that “Informed the court that he will not come back to court because he will not find justice in these proceedings and his rights won’t be respected.” The court then decided that if Rusesabagina decides not to appear in court, the trial will not stop and he will be tried in absentia, which is allowed in Rwanda.
While the judges left the door open to Rusesabagina returning at any time, the reasons that he withdrew himself from the trial were not addressed. He still has no access to private and confidential documents provided to him by his lawyers, as any files left with him are still confiscated when he goes back to his cell. He does not have access to his international lawyers, and his contact with his Rwandan lawyers is limited, with visits being arbitrarily denied.. The court has still not dealt with the key issue of his illegal kidnapping and subsequent illegal detention, both of which should bring an immediate end to the trial. These and many other legalities, as laid out by multiple international human rights reports, all remain.
The Day 8 witness was Noel Habyaremye who was a co defendant of Victoire Ingabire. He is a professional witness who was wheeled out from a torture house to testify against Ingabire.
According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International he was held incommunicado and tortured in Rwandan prison and eventually let out on early release. He testified, without any evidence or receipts, that Rusesabagina had sent him money. He said that he talked to Paul about “his plans” but never said what those plans were.
There was a great deal of discussion about the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation which was founded to help widows and orphans after the Genocide. In 2007, when groups inside of Rwanda who were receiving funds from Rusesabagina began to be threatened with expulsion or extinction, the HRRF changed its mission. Rather than focusing on building a better life for a few hundred widows and orphans, the mission was changed to create an education and advocacy foundation to work toward building a better life for all Rwandans through creating dialogue on truth and reconciliation and building a sustainable peace for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
The Rwandan government, which regularly reads the HRRF releases, evidently does not read them very closely as the mission is stated in most of them and has been since the change of focus back in 2007. The Foundation, which was formally dissolved in 2014, worked to prevent future genocides and raise awareness of the need for a new truth and reconciliation process in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa to stop the violence occurring there today. Building on the lessons learned from the Rwandan genocide, the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation worked to create dialogue in order to promote an understanding of the dangerous conditions which lead to misunderstanding, hatred, and violence–the seeds of future genocides.
So on Day 8 of the show trial of Paul Rusesabagina, everything remains the same. Paul continues to boycott the trial as his rights continue to be violated.