October 28, 2020

Rusesabagina Joins Growing List of Rwandans Petitioning Regional Courts for Justice

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It remains to be seen how the EACJ will handle the latest case from Rwanda

The international legal team of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ movie personality Paul Rusesabagina wants the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to force the Government of Rwanda to free him.

The team has filed a petition with the Arusha, Tanzania-based court demanding Kigali “permanently stay the proceedings against him in Rwanda”.

Rusesabagina shockingly appeared at an impromptus press conference in Kigali, after years seeking to oust the government. He also had formed rebel force. His family and team of seven international lawyers affairm he was “kidnapped”.

Rusesabagina is currently facing prosecution for up to 13 charges including terrorism and looting – cases the prosecution says were committed by his rebel group the FLN in southern Rwanda.

Rusesabagina was given two lawyers in Rwanda. But one of the international lawyers said last week that he came to Rwanda to take up the case and was blocked from meeting him.

By Rusesabagina filing case with a foreign court, is just the latest on a list of Rwandans seeking justice outside the country’s courts.

In statement issued Tuesday, the team writes: “Mr Rusesabagina’s illegal kidnap on 27 August 2020 and extraordinary rendition from Dubai to Kigali not only breached the 1999 Treaty provisions, but demonstrated Rwanda’s prioritisation of silencing critics over compliance with international law and human rights.”

Adding: “If the Rwandan government had any substantiated or legitimate allegations against Mr Rusesabagina, it could have followed established procedures for his lawful extradition from the United States to Rwanda. Its decision to resort to kidnapping demonstrates the weakness of the allegations against Mr Rusesabagina. It also forms part of a long-established pattern of illegal treatment of political opponents of the Rwandan regime.”

Philippe Larochelle, who is heading the legal team is quoted as saying: “Rwanda’s membership of the East African Community means that it is bound to promote and protect human rights, and adhere to the principles of the rule of law, accountability and transparency. When the Rwandan government kidnaps a person, leaves him tied and bound for days, and subjects him to an illegal and extraordinary rendition, it is breaching these obligations. The East African Community exists to ensure that its member States cannot be allowed to act like this, and the EACJ provides a legal mechanism for Rwanda to be held to account”.

Rusesabagina’s petition includes a request for the EACJ to urgently consider the measures sought.

Rusesanagina is not alone who has filed case outside of Rwanda to challenge the government.

Opposition politician Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza also sought intervention of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Government refused to take part in the case.

Exiled former army chief Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa along with others also filed their own case with the same African court. Despite the court issuing some instructions, they have simply been ignored by Kigali.

Jailed former commander of the presidential guard Col Tom Byabagamba and co-convict Brig Gen (Rtd) Frank Rusagara, have also petitioned the East African Court of Justice to intervene in their case.

The EACJ is incidentally headed by Justice Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, from Rwanda.

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