CHICAGO – October 7th – Paul’s family and team are exceptionally pleased that the European Parliament continues its strong condemnation of the illegal arrest, detention and conviction of Paul Rusesabagina by the Rwandan government. The current EU resolution is an extremely strong statement about Paul’s situation. It is incredibly important that the EU is leading the world in standing up against the human rights violations that occurred from the time of Paul’s kidnapping and torture through the end of his sham trial.
The resolution’s call for Paul’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds is very welcome news. We are pleased that the European Parliament is committed to applying pressure to the Rwandan government through its various diplomatic representations. In addition, the resolution amplifies the crucial need to keep Paul safe and provide him with appropriate medical care while he is still a detained political prisoner.
European Parliamentarian Kathleen Van Brempt summarized the decision well by stating: “”In the first resolution last February, the EP denounced abduction and torture, and asked for a guarantee of fair trial for Paul Rusesabagina. We stand here again because he didn’t receive a fair trial. This was confirmed by the Belgian Foreign Ministry, US State Department, and numerous foreign ministries. He didn’t get a lawyer, and only got court documents three days before the trial. His lawyers and family were intimidated. Witnesses weren’t cross-examined, even when they gave conflicting statements. Co-accused were pressured to give evidence against him. The sentence of 25 years is a death sentence. He is 62 (actually 67) years old and a cancer survivor and he needs care. Most importantly, he is a Belgian, an EU citizen and a US resident. We are responsible for his fundamental human rights that are fundamentally violated by Rwanda. We need to do everything to get him into safety.”
Parliamentarian Hilde Vautmans added that: “You do not kidnap someone to give him a fair trial.” In response to the resolution, she made a strong argument that the EP resolution sends “one clear message to the Rwandan authorities – Paul Rusesabagina is ill. Release him on humanitarian grounds and let him be repatriated, without reference to his guilt or innocence.” Others in the EP dicussion noted that steps need to be taken now to repatriate Paul Rusesabagina to either the United States or Belgium, and other were clearly appalled at what was called the “steadily increasing repression in Rwanda.”
The guilty verdict in this case was anticipated from the start based on the long history of Rwandan mistreatment and show trials for political prisoners. The European Parliament has joined other governmental organizations, international legal groups and human rights groups in decrying the trial. This purely show trial featured a dictatorship calling a humanitarian critic a “terrorist,” and then providing no credible evidence that the crimes alleged ever happened.
Since the trial, the Rwandan government has continued its attempts to convict Paul in the press. It is not enough for them to declare him guilty, they also want to slander his name as much as possible and try to undercut support for his release. Through social media, the captive Rwandan press and government spokespeople, the Rwandans have even exaggerated the charges since the trial ended, accusing Paul of crimes that were not even brought up at the trial or in the indictment. These are not the tactics of a fair justice system, but rather the political efforts of a government desperately trying to justify its own actions.
The international community has all of the evidence and the press has provided excellent reports to date on the numerous flaws in this trial. Now is the time to increase the pressure to free Paul Rusesabagina.