Washington, May 18, 2022 – The U.S. Department of State has now officially provided imprisoned humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina the status of “wrongful detainee.” Rusesabagina, who is best known for his role in saving 1,268 people during the Rwandan genocide in 1994 as seen in the movie Hotel Rwanda, was kidnapped by the Rwandan government in August 2020 and has been held as an arbitrary detainee in Rwanda ever since.
The new designation from the State Department is in keeping with the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage Taking Accountability Act. By making this designation, the U.S. government has determined that Rusesabagina is not a terrorist as Rwanda claims, but is in fact wrongfully detained. Rusesabagina is a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient for his heroic actions during the 1994 genocide and is a permanent resident of the United States, living in San Antonio, Texas. His family has worked with the U.S. government to urge them to take action to secure his release from Rwanda. This latest announcement came after the family and other families of hostages held abroad rallied outside of the White House to urge President Biden to take direct action.
The family is hopeful that his new status as a “wrongful detainee” will lead to increased pressure and action from the State Department, Congress and the White House. Rusesabagina has now been illegally imprisoned for more than 630 days. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,(UNWGAD), the Clooney Foundation for Justice, and many other international NGOs and government groups have all stated that his arrest, along with his subsequent torture, imprisonment and show trial, were illegal under international standards. His human rights have been violated by the Rwandan government at every turn.
Most importantly, Rusesabagina’s health is deteriorating, and his family fears that he will die in jail in Rwanda if something is not done by the United States and others to free him. He is a 67 year old cancer survivor, who appears to have suffered one or more strokes in recent months. Visitors report that he has weakness and pain in his left arm, which is also at times hanging in an unnatural way. He also has suffered partial facial paralysis. Rusesabagina’s high blood pressure and heart condition have not received treatment while in prison, as Rwandan authorities refuse to provide him with his prescribed medications. In addition, he and his family cannot trust a medical system that is politicized by the dictatorship that has consistently violated his human rights, including kidnapping and torturing him.
Rusesabagina’s family urges strong and immediate action by the U.S. government to secure their father and husband’s release before the worst happens.