‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Denied Legal Rights, His Foundation Says
(Bloomberg) -- Rwandan authorities have held Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager who sheltered people during the nation’s 1994 genocide, incommunicado after abducting him, according to his foundation.
Portrayed as a hero in the Oscar-nominated 2004 Hollywood movie ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ Rusesabagina was shown to the media in handcuffs at the Rwanda Investigations Bureau’s headquarters last week. The authorities didn’t disclose how they arrested the 66-year-old, who is a Belgian citizen and has permanent residency in the U.S.
Rusesabagina has been denied access to his chosen lawyers and family, and consular and Red Cross officials haven’t been allowed to visit him, his foundation said. On Monday, a team of international human-rights lawyers appointed by his family to represent him filed an urgent appeal to Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, to assist him.
Melzer was urged to begin an immediate probe into Rusesabagina’s treatment and request Rwanda’s government to ensure his health is safeguarded, especially since he needs medication for a heart condition and hypertension, according to the appeal.
Rusesabagina was abducted in Dubai on Aug. 28 and “brought illegally to Rwanda,” his foundation said in its statement. “The process playing out right now in Rwanda is a kangaroo court process that the U.S. and Belgium cannot condone.”
Read more about Paul Rusesabagina and ‘Hotel Rwanda’
Rusesabagina has been an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame for several years and is a member of the opposition Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change, which has an armed wing that engaged in a gunfight with government troops in 2018.
The investigations bureau said in a statement that Rusesabagina is suspected to be “the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits.”
“Rwanda did not do anything wrong in the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina. Rwanda didn’t kidnap Rusesabagina as is being said by some people, he will testify to that himself,” Kagame told state television on Sunday. “He has to pay for the crimes he has committed and the blood on his hands of the people of the south-west of the country.”
Kagame has often warned his critics that those who “betray” the country will be dealt with, and the country’s intelligence network has been accused by international human-rights groups of abducting and killing former allies in Rwanda and abroad. The Rwandan government has rejected the allegations.
Rusesabagina helped save more than 1,200 people from Hutu extermination squads by sheltering them at Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, an act that won him a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died during the 100-day killing spree.
“I personally don’t have a problem with him being portrayed as a hero but if you asked people who survived in the hotel” and members of the UN who were there “they will tell you a different story,” Kagame said. “But that is also a story for another day.”
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