Rwanda’s High Court Chamber for International Crimes has found Hotel Rwanda movie’s personality Paul Rusesabagina gulty of serious charges. He faces many years in jail.
Rusesabagina and co-accus Nsabimana Calixte aka Sankara were found guilty of forming and financing a terrorist organisation, which launched armed attacks on the Rwandan territory, killing at least 9, injuring many. The attacks also destroyed properties worth million as well as forcefully taking property.
Rusesabagina was not in court as he refused to take part after a few initial sessions. He is charged along with 20 others including an elderly woman, a former rebel commander and genocide suspect.
Here are details on the FLN rebel force whose actions the accused are being prosecution
Until January 2020, the FLN was headed by Colonel Wilson Irategeka (a former FDLR officer), and Herman Nsengimana (also an FDLR member). Rusesabagina’s links to the FDLR date back to 2009, when he was first suspected by Rwandan investigators of financing the group from the US via Western Union transfers. Belgian police subsequently opened an investigation into these accusations and brought Rusesabagina in for questioning in 2011.
Rwandan prosecutors, as well as FLN members Nsengimana and Callixte Nsabimana Sankara (who ordered the 2018 attacks) have all said that Rusesabagina maintained direct contact with and was personally involved in its operations. Rusesabagina himself admitted to prosecutors that he donated at least €20,000 to the FLN. Nsabimana has put the number closer to $190,000. Like Nsengimana (who’s claimed that Rusesabagina spoke regularly with Irategeka) – Nsabimana has also said that Rusesabagina gave funds directly to “FLN generals”.
1) Paul Rusesabagina founded the PDR-Ihumure political party in 2006.
2) In 2014 the PDR initiated talks with the Coalition des Partis Politiques pour le Changement, an FDLR-liked coalition which included the Rwanda Dream Initiative of Rwanda’s former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu.
3) In 2017 Rusesabagina launched the MRCD, which brought together his party, that of Twagiramungu, and the CNRD (a splinter group of FDLR).
4) Rusesabagina co-founded the FLN as an armed division of PDR-Ihumure in 2018.
5) The first FLN attack took place on 19 June 2018, in Nyabimata, Nyaruguru District. A subsequent attack took place nearby, in Kitabi, Nyamagabe District on 15 December 2018. Nine Rwandan civilians lost their lives in the attacks. The victims included two children: Ornella Sine Atete (13), and Isaac Niwenshuti (17).
6) In December 2018, Callixte Nsabimana, also known as “Sankara”, took to social media to announce that the FLN had claimed responsibility for these attacks. He was later arrested, and immediately pled guilty to 16 charges of terrorism.
7) Also in December 2018, Rusesabagina delivered a speech on the MRCD YouTube channel as the “President of MRCD-FLN”. In the statement he announced that the FLN had “launched a military struggle to liberate the Rwandan people”, and that “the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda”. He pledged his “unreserved support that our youth, the National Liberation Forces, launches against the Kagame army, in order to free the Rwandan people”.
8) In December 2019 the Democratic Republic of Congo army captured more than 400 members of the CNRD in South Kivu province. Among the those arrested was Herman Nsengimana, a captain of the FLN. During these operations, Wilson Irategeka was killed.
9) On 13 May 2020, Belgian Prosecution Authority sent to Rwandan Prosecution testimonies other evidence obtained from the inspection of computers and telephones seized during the search of Mr Rusesabagina’s house in Brussels.
10) On 31 August 31, 2020, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau announced that Mr. Rusesabagina was in its custody. He had been the subject of an arrest warrant and was subsequently charged with multiple offences, including terrorism for founding the FLN, along with 20 other defendants, including FLN officers, Captain Herman Nsengimana and Callixte Nsabimana.
11) On 3 December 2020, the High Court Chamber for International Crimes agreed to the request to merge the trial of Mr. Rusesabagina and his co-accused.
12) The trial was initially scheduled to begin on 26 January 2021 but was postponed due to COVID concerns. Proceedings eventually commenced on 17 February 2021. A live stream of the trial, including one with English translation, was available online throughout.
13) The court was also shown various documents, including e-mail message records, revealing that Rusesabagina was in direct contact with Antoine Hakizimana (aka Gen Jeva), commander of the FLN’s operations in the northern region of the DRC. In the exchange, Hakizimana updated Rusesabagina on the group’s current military operations and asked him for additional financial assistance. Rusesabagina thanked him for the report and promised to provide funding.
14) Further evidence was provided by context witness Dr Michelle Martin, an American human rights activist, professor and former volunteer at the Chicago-based Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation from 2009-2012. In her testimony, during which she displayed and read items from Rusesabagina’s personal e-mail correspondence, she expressed her belief that the foundation “operated as a political organisation whose apparent primary goal was overthrowing the Rwandan Government”.
15) Martin specifically presented copies of screenshots of Rusesabagina’s emails and text messages suggesting that Rusesabagina had made money transfers to persons affiliated with the FDLR. Martin claimed that she also had obtained messages detailing how the group planned to recruit rebels from Rwandan universities, but later switched to recruiting people from the refugee camps in Uganda.
• In the past, Rusesabagina has sympathised with genocide denialism. For example, in a 2007 interview on Chicago Public Radio, he alleged that Rwandan Patriotic Front, the party of Rwandan president Paul Kagame and the group which ousted the extremist government conducting genocide in 1994, had actually directed the genocide as part of a false flag operation.
• At a Westminster Magistrates’ Court in 2008, Judge Anthony Evans, characterised Rusesabagina as a genocide denier who was allied to “the extremist Hutu faction”.
• In 2014, Rusesabagina’s PDR-Ihumure party initiated talks with the Coalition des Partis Politiques pour le Changement, an FDLR-liked coalition which included the Rwanda Dream Initiative of Rwanda’s former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu.
• Rusesabagina created the FLN in 2018, but its origins can be traced to internationally sanctioned rebel factions currently operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. These include the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) as well as its breakaway faction, the Conseil National pour la Renaissance et la Démocratie (CNRD). Amnesty International, the United Nations, and the United States have all accused the FDLR of using committing extensive human rights abuses, including kidnapping, rape, and murder spread an “illegitimate political agenda”.
• One of Rusesabagina’s FLN co-defendants is Felicien Nsazubukire aka Fred Irakiza, a member of CNRD, and formerly FDLR, who has been on the UN Security Council sanctions list since 2010 and on the Interpol Red Notice .
• The FLN committed at least two major attacks on Rwandan soil, and claimed responsibility for them, both before and during the trial. This is beyond question. These attacks killed nine innocent Rwandans. Among the victims were two children, aged 13 and 17.
• Paul Rusesabagina has openly admitted to founding the FLN, and has publicly called on them to “launch against the Kagame army” in a “military struggle to liberate the Rwandan people”.
• In late 2018, After the FLN’s attacks, Rusesabagina pledged his “unreserved support” for the FLN in a widely spread YouTube video. In a April 2019 Voice of America interview, when asked whether his forces were still in Nyungwe forest – on the Rwanda-Burundi border near where the attacks took place – he replied: “We are angry. We did not enter it to abandon it”.
• Evidence revealed in the trial showed Rusesabagina was financing the FLN. A former employee of his foundation, Dr Michelle Martin, confirmed that Rusesabagina was using money donated to his charity in the United States to fund his political party and sending money to the FDLR as early as 2009.
• Rusesabagina was not compelled at any point prior to his arrest. He stepped off his plane onto Rwandan soil, where he was arrested. In an interview with the New York Times, he confirmed this, and said that he had “been treated very, very well”, and said “I’m given whatever I want”.
• Rusesabagina’s family and his public relations team have concocted several stories about his treatment and his career. For example, in a recent interview on TRT World , Rusesabagina’s daughter, Carine Kanimba, called the FLN attacks “false flag” operations. None of these stories have any basis in fact. Rusesabagina has been treated with dignity, and had access to medical treatment, consular visits and regulare calls with his family.
• Bishop Constantin Niyomwungere’s testimony revealed that Rusesabagina intended to fly to Burundi to meet with political leaders and his military commanders. His story that he thought this clergyman had the funds to hire a private jet from Dubai to speak at a church is ludicrous.
• Trial proceedings have been live streamed, including with English translations, for the entirety of the trial. Rwanda’s independent judiciary is committed to transparency.