BRUSSELS – Dec. 19, 2021 – PRLog — Rwandan President Paul Kagame met with EU Council President Charles Michel this week. While the meeting was private, this was a rare opportunity to show the world that the EU and Belgium stand for human rights, free speech and fair trials. Did Michel use this opportunity?
EU and Belgian citizen Paul Rusesabagina has been wrongfully detained in Rwanda for more than 476 days now. Rusesabagina was kidnapped in August, 2020, tortured, and subjected to what the world views as a completely unfair, sham trial, in which all of his rights to due process were violated. Although the prosecution provided no credible evidence on any offenses at the trial, Rusesabagina was still sentenced to 25 years in prison. When Presidents Michel and Kagame met, the first and primary topic on the agenda should have been the continued illegal detention of Paul Rusesabagina.
Can the EU and its member states, especially Belgium, stand by as one of their own citizens is kidnapped and held as a political prisoner? If President Michel ignored this and engaged in normal relations with the Rwandan president, this sends a chilling message to EU citizens: the EU is willing to put their own citizens on a back burner in order to maintain “good relations” with a dictatorship that regularly violates the human rights of its own citizens.
Paul Rusesabagina’s only real “crime” was free speech. He is a regular and open critic of the human rights record of the Kagame government. And for that speech, he was kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned.
The Rwandan government insists that Rusesabagina was involved in terrorism, but from the beginning presented no credible evidence on these charges. No arrest warrant was presented. Fair trial rights were pushed to the side.
If Rwanda had real, substantiated charges to bring, they could have presented these to Belgium or the United States and then extradited Rusesabagina. But instead, they resorted to kidnapping. As one EU parliamentarian noted: how can a fair trial start with a kidnapping?
The EU Parliament passed a strong resolution demanding Rusesabagina’s release and noting that his medical condition in detention is dire. Magnitsky Sanctions against Rwandan leaders are being discussed by several governments. And contrary to statements by EU diplomat Josep Borrell, Rwanda has made no efforts to respect Rusesabagina’s human rights.
The EU and Belgium should not engage in “normal” relations and make deals with Rwanda while that country holds a Belgian citizen as a wrongful detainee. This is of great concern to ALL Belgian and EU citizens. If these governments do not intercede when Paul Rusesabagina is kidnapped, tortured and subjected to an illegal trial, is any Belgian or EU citizen safe?
Did President Michel join the EU Parliament, along with many other governments and international organizations, to demand the immediate release of Paul Rusesabagina?
Background: In late August, 2020, humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina, whose story of saving 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide was told in the film Hotel Rwanda, was kidnapped and flown against his will to Kigali, Rwanda.
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