The European Union (EU) has strongly condemned the “enforced disappearance, illegal rendition and the incommunicado detention” of opposition figure Paul Rusesabagina, and called for his “immediate release”, Chimp Corps report.
EU said Rusesabagina was on 27 August 2020, forcibly transferred from Dubai to Kigali under uncertain circumstances and only reappeared on 31 August 2020 at the Rwandan Investigation Bureau (RIB) headquarters.
The body which said a 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 which was not the case with Rusesabagina.
In a resolution, the EU parliament said urged the Rwandan government to “show its willingness to conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations, and provide a complete and corroborated account of how Paul Rusesabagina was apprehended and transferred to Kigali.”
President Paul Kagame last year suggested that Rusesabagina came of his own accord.
“With kidnap, that was not the case, and he will attest that to himself. There was no kidnap. There was no wrongdoing in the process of his getting here,” Kagame said, describing the handling of the case as “flawless”.
The president suggested that Rusesabagina was told a story that fit into his expectations and ended up in Rwanda.
“How he got here was more to do with himself than anybody else,” Kagame said. “And he will say it; when the time comes, he will the people what happened.”
Rusesabagina was the managing director of the Hotel “Des Mille Collines” in Kigali during the genocide in 1994 who offered shelter and protection to 1268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were fleeing from the killing.
He is an internationally acknowledged human rights hero whose story was told in the film Hotel Rwanda and his laudable role was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest civilian award in the US, by then-president George W. Bush.
Rusesabagina is a fierce opponent of the current Rwandan government and co-founded the opposition Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) which Rwanda accuses of engaging in acts of terrorism.
The EU, which has in the last 7 years provided €460 million in development assistance to Rwanda, said Kigali should allow Rusesabagina a “fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal applying international human rights norms.”
Rwandan authorities were also talked to ensure Rusesabagina is assisted by a lawyer of his own choice as he has the right to defend himself.
EU also expressed its deep concerns at the medical condition of Rusesabagina and called on the Rwandan government to ensure appropriate medical assistance and allow him to take his usual medication and that his medical situation should be monitored by a doctor in Belgium, as requested by the Belgian Foreign Minister on 4 February 2021.
Rusesabagina is currently detained in Rwanda facing terrorism related charges.
EU said Rusesabagina was denied access to legal counsel of his choosing and that his indictment, casefile and other documents necessary for the preparation of his defence were confiscated on 23 December 2020 by the Prison Director of Mageragere Prison.
The family of Rusesabagina said it was extremely concerned about his medical condition as he is a cancer survivor and suffers from a cardiovascular disorder for which he takes prescribed medication.
The family said Rusesabagina’s medication his family sent via the diplomatic pouch of the Belgian Embassy in Rwanda was reportedly never administered to him yet he receives medication prescribed by a Rwandan doctor without knowing what kind of drug it incorporates.
Human rights abuses
Meanwhile, EU also criticized Rwandan authorities for failing to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into the suspicious death in police custody of Kizito Mihigo, a Rwandan singer, in February 2020 as well as the suspicious death of Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former spy chief and later a critic in exile, who was murdered in a Johannesburg hotel on January 1, 2014.
EU also urged the Rwandan government to conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture, and bring perpetrators to justice.
The body also strongly condemned politically motivated trials, the prosecution of political opponents and the prejudging of the outcome of the trial and urged the Rwandan authorities to ensure the separation of administrative, legislative and judicial powers, in particular the independence of the judiciary.
EU further called on Rwanda to open its political space and improve its human rights record and ratify the Convention against Enforced Disappearances and the Rome Statute to become a party to the International Criminal Court; and to allow the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to resume its visits.
Observers say this is the toughest EU statement on Rwanda’s human rights record in many years.
Rwanda has a Global Freedom Score of 22/100 and is considered as not free.
According to a special report of Freedom House, Rwandan transnational repression is exceptionally broad in terms of tactics, targets and geographic reach and includes digital threats, spyware attacks, family intimidation and harassment, mobility controls, rendition and assassination and that the government has physically targeted Rwandans in at least seven countries since 2014.
EU also passed sanctions against Rwandan officials over human rights abuses.