Human Rights Watch says Hotel Rwanda film hero and government critic Paul Rusesabagina was forcibly disappeared

Although we are headquartered in Washington D.C. USA, our reporters and editors are working around the globe to cover what you care about. We invite you to donate to our fundraiser to help us keep our quality news free and available to all.  

The government of Rwanda’s arrest of a prominent critic of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) amounted to an enforced disappearance, a serious violation of international law, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The organization said Rwanda should immediately grant the government opponent, Paul Rusesabagina, access to legal counsel of his choosing, confidential consultations, and regular contact with his family. They should allow him promptly to exercise his right to challenge the legality of his arrest, represented by legal counsel of his choosing before an independent tribunal applying international human rights norms.

Rusesabagina, who fled to Belgium in 1996 and is now a Belgian citizen living in the United States, traveled from the US to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on August 27, 2020. Family members told Human Rights Watch they exchanged WhatsApp messages with him that evening, but that they were not able to contact him again, and knew nothing of what happened to him until the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) announced it had Rusesabagina in custody in Kigali, Rwanda, on August 31. Rusesabagina’s family were not able to speak with him until September 8.

[read_more id="2" more="Read full article" less="Read less"]

The President of The Republic of Rwanda Mr. Paul KAGAME arriving in Sochi to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit on 23–24 October 2020
The President of The Republic of Rwanda Mr. Paul KAGAME arriving in Sochi to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit on 23–24 October 2020Photo: Donat Sorokin/TASS

“Rwanda has an established track record of using unlawful, cloak-and-dagger methods to target those it perceives to be a threat to the ruling party,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that Rwanda did not pursue Rusesabagina through lawful extradition proceedings suggests the authorities do not believe their evidence or fair trial guarantees would stand up to scrutiny before an independent tribunal, and so opted to circumvent the rule of law.”

Human Rights Watch spoke with three family members and one of Rusesabagina’s lawyers, and reviewed publicly available information, including data on flights between Dubai and Kigali and interviews given by President Paul Kagame and the spokesperson of the Investigation Bureau.

Rusesabagina is best known as the manager of the Hotel Mille Collines, a luxury hotel in central Kigali where hundreds of people sought protection during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. After the genocide he fled Rwanda, fearing for his safety. He later became a fierce critic of the government of Rwanda and co-founded the opposition Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (Mouvement rwandais pour le changement démocratique, MRCD), a coalition of opposition groups, which has an armed wing known as the National Liberation Forces (Forces de libération nationale, FLN). The FLN has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Rwanda’s Southern Province since 2018.

Hotel Rwanda film hero, Paul Rusesabagina
Hotel Rwanda film hero, Paul Rusesabagina

More than 10 days after Rwanda acknowledged that Rusesabagina was in their custody, the authorities have failed to provide a consistent or full account of how he was apprehended and came to be in their custody. In particular, Rwandan authorities have not disclosed in whose custody Rusesabagina was when he was detained in Dubai on August 27 until his reappearance in Kigali on August 31.

Rusesabagina spoke to three family members over the phone on September 8. A family member told Human Rights Watch they are concerned that Rusesabagina was not speaking freely because two lawyers who are not included in the defense team they put together were present during the conversation. Family members also said that the two lawyers were present during a visit by Belgian consulate staff on September 7.

It is disputed whether Rusesabagina has been given access to a lawyer of his choosing, as Rwandan authorities confirmed to the media they had turned away a lawyer who presented himself as authorized by Rusesabagina’s family to represent him.

Rusesabagina’s family members told Human Rights Watch they are concerned that Rusesabagina is being given different medication than he normally takes for his health issues.

Rwandan authorities initially said they arrested Rusesabagina through international cooperation, but on September 8 seemed to backtrack, suggesting they alone arrested Rusesabagina and other countries only helped earlier investigations. If so, this means that Rwandan agents were operating on UAE soil to detain him.

An unnamed UAE official quoted in a CNN article said Rusesabagina had left the country “legally” on a private jet to Rwanda several hours after arriving in the UAE. A report by Radio France Internationale confirmed that a Bombardier Challenger 605 jet owned by Gainjet company – which has an office in Kigali and is regularly used by Rwandan officials, including the president – left Dubai’s Al Maktoum international airport around 1 a.m. on August 28 and arrived in Kigali airport hours later.

On September 6, President Kagame denied allegations of kidnapping: “There was no kidnap…. He got here on the basis of what he believed and wanted to do … it was actually flawless.”

Rusesabagina, while in custody at Remera Police Station, was presented for an interview to The East African on September 3, in which he declined to answer questions about his arrest and arrival in Rwanda. In his interview with The East African, Rusesabagina said he was being given access to food, medication, and medical assistance and was in the process of choosing his legal counsel. It is highly suspicious that a criminal suspect should give an “exclusive” press interview before he has been granted access to his lawyers, consular services, or contact with his family, Human Rights Watch said.

Rwandan authorities should urgently provide a complete and corroborated account of how Rusesabagina was apprehended and transferred to Rwanda, Human Rights Watch said. Based on Human Rights Watch research examining publicly available information, Rusesabagina was in the custody of the Rwandans or their proxies as of the night of August 27 but his detention was not acknowledged by the Rwandans until August 31, meaning he was forcibly disappeared for at least three days.

When authorities deprive someone of their liberty and refuse to acknowledge the detention, or conceal the person’s whereabouts, they are committing an enforced disappearance, a crime under international law and prohibited under all circumstances. Those involved in and responsible for such acts should be held criminally responsible, Human Rights Watch said.

The lawful detention and transfer of a suspect from one country to another to face criminal proceedings should be accomplished through extradition proceedings, overseen by an independent tribunal to verify the legality of the extradition request and conduct an assessment of whether the suspect’s rights, including to protection from inhuman treatment, due process, and a fair trial, will be guaranteed. The fact that Rwandan authorities circumvented the legal process of extradition in Rusesabagina’s case seriously undermines their claims as to the legitimacy and good faith of their efforts to prosecute him.

Under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the “Convention against Torture”), which the Rwanda and the UAE ratified in 2008 and 2012, respectively, no one is to be sent to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that they might be tortured or mistreated. This obligation has been interpreted to require governments to provide a mechanism for people to challenge decisions to transfer them to another country.

Belgian authorities should urgently complete an investigation into Rusesabagina’s handover to Rwanda and publish its findings without delay, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Rwandan authorities’ handling of this case so far has flouted many of the protections enshrined in international law, raising serious concerns about Rusesabagina’s well-being and right to a fair trial in Rwanda,” Mudge said. “The gravity of the charges against Rusesabagina do not give Rwandan authorities free rein to resort to the crime of enforced disappearance and ignore due process and international fair trial standards.”

[/read_more]

Today News Africa
Today News Africahttps://todaynewsafrica.com
TODAY NEWS AFRICA is registered and headquartered in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Our publication is widely read, respected and influential. By providing daily answers to questions our readers have about the people, the businesses and the continent of Africa, we are reaching a diverse and wide audience from around the world. Our readers, many of them world leaders, trust us because we are independent and truthful. Our advertisers understand the difference between news, views and ads. Contact us: contactus@todaynewsafrica.com

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Trending Now

300,504FansLike
227FollowersFollow
6FollowersFollow
1FollowersFollow
909FollowersFollow
138SubscribersSubscribe

JUST IN

South African leader tells UN summit COVID-19 and environmental degradation are closely linked and must be fought together

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told a virtual UNGA75 summit on biodiversity on Wednesday that his administration was not losing sight...

Amnesty International USA urges Trump to condemn ‘white supremacy and racist violence’ following blunder at chaotic debate

Amnesty International USA on Wednesday urged President Donald Trump to condemn 'white supremacy and racist violence', a day after Mr. Trump...

New York police planned assault on Black Lives Matter protesters in Bronx on June 4, human rights group says in shocking 99-page report

New York City police planned the assault and mass arrests of peaceful protesters in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South...

South Africa’s minister of defense Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in the eye of the storm again, even after ‘salary sacrifice’

President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed that documentation relating to a recent visit to Zimbabwe by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans...

Former colonizer Queen of England whose country left Africa in ruins congratulates Nigeria on 60th independence anniversary

Former colonizer Queen of England whose country left Nigeria in total political and economic chaos has sent a message of felicitation...

MOST POPULAR

Damning report finds detainees in Iran were sexually abused and given electric shocks in gruesome post-protest crackdown

Iran’s police, intelligence and security forces, and prison officials have committed, with the complicity of judges and prosecutors, a catalogue of...

IMF has given $31 billion to 76 countries to respond to COVID-19, including over $10 billion to 47 low income nations

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given $31 billion in emergency financing to 76 countries in the world to respond to...

Nigerian activists send open letter to President Buhari urging him to prosecute more than 100 high-profile corruption cases he has ignored

Nigerian activists have sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to prosecute more than 100 high-profile corruption cases...

Nigeria could shut down on Monday as more unions pledge to join strike amid increase in power and petrol prices

Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, could shut down on Monday, as more unions pledge to join a strike action amid an...

Biden wins disastrous, embarrassing, worst presidential debate, as out of control Trump fails to change perceptions and refuses to condemn white supremacists

Joe Biden won the first presidential debate on Tuesday night amid countless interruptions by President Donald Trump who was supposed to...

South African leader tells UN summit COVID-19 and environmental degradation are closely linked and must be fought together

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told a virtual UNGA75 summit on biodiversity on Wednesday that his administration was not losing sight of the environmental degradation amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying both are closely linked."The coronavirus pandemic has had badly affected the ability of national economies to respond to challenges like environmental degradation and climate change.  

[/read_more]

[read_more id="2" more="Read full article" less="Read less"]

Share
Tweet
WhatsApp
Reddit
Share