CHICAGO – August 27th – Today marks the very sad one year anniversary of the kidnapping of Paul Rusesabagina by the Rwandan government. Why was Paul kidnapped? Certainly not because he supported terrorism, which is the Rwandan government’s claim.
Paul broke a much more important Rwandan rule. He spoke out against President Paul Kagame and his regime. Since the movie Hotel Rwanda was made about Paul’s heroic actions at the Hotel des Milles Collines during the terrible 1994 genocide, Paul has been a steadfast champion for the Rwandan people. He speaks out against human rights violations, including lack of democracy, lack of free speech or free press, and a near complete lack of civil liberties. Paul calls out murders and unlawful detentions of regime opponents. And he has called out Rwandan actions in the neighboring Congo described as war crimes and crimes against humanity by the United Nations and many NGOs. Paul speaks truth to power, and acts as a voice for the voiceless.
But this came at a cost. Paul has been harassed and threatened by the Kagame government for most of two decades. And last August, he was kidnapped by that government in a plot that President Kagame declared as “flawless.” Kagame cannot tolerate anyone dissenting against his regime and his actions, and Paul was on his list as the Number One dissenter. Paul was lured from his home in San Antonio, through Dubai, and then was tricked onto a plane that he thought was heading to Burundi, but actually landed in Kigali.
Over the past 365 days, Paul has been tortured, held in solitary confinement for over 250 days in violation of the UN’s Mandela Rules, and mistreated constantly by his Rwandan captors. He was denied access to counsel of his choice for months, and now that he does have local counsel that he can trust, they are harassed and often prevented from seeing him. Paul is not allowed access to his international legal team, nor to any of the 5,000+ documents in the case that he might need to prepare for a trial.
He has been put in front of what can only be called a “Show Trial” since February, and the outcome is clear. The prosecution put up no credible witnesses or evidence that link Paul to the charges in any way. This case would be thrown out of court in any other country on sight. But Paul’s team is convinced that when the verdict comes in on September 20th, Paul Rusesabagina will be found guilty and sentenced to effectively life in prison.
Paul’s wife and six children are increasingly worried about his health every day. Paul is a 67 year old cancer survivor, in remission, but also has a heart condition and high blood pressure. The Rwandan government refuses to give him his prescribed medication, replacing what he normally takes with one pill a day. Paul regularly complains of dizziness, faintness and weakness. He has been confined in one of the worst prison systems in the world, and if he is not released soon he may die there.
Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation advisor and Rusesabagina family friend Brian Endless, PhD wrote a blog reflecting on Paul’s year in confinement, available here: https://link.medium.com/FD43Zivv3ib
In addition, Paul’s legal team has put together a brief synopsis of the many legal problems in this case, available here: https://paulr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Brief-legal-overview-on-the-trial-and-kidnapping-of-Paul-Rusesabagina.pdf
Finally, Paul’s team has created an FAQ with many of the most common questions on his case at: https://hotelrwandarusesabaginafoundation.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/faq-one-year-after-kidnapping-1.pdf
Paul Rusesabagina needs to be released on compassionate grounds now. Paul’s family and team once again call on the United States and Belgian governments to do everything they can to immediately bring about Paul’s release from Rwanda.