September 03, 2020

Kaine Urges State Department to Insist On Safety & Fair Trial for Paul Rusesabagina

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee On Africa And Global Health Policy, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for the State Department to communicate with the Government of Rwanda to ensure the safety and fair treatment of Paul Rusesabagina. This past week, Rwandan officials arrested Rusesabagina—the inspiration for the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda—for various charges his family has denied. Rusesabagina has been critical of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose government has tried to silence dissent by arresting journalists, activists, and other critics. 

“I ask that the Department of State communicate to the Government of Rwanda that the safety of Mr. Rusesabagina must be guaranteed while he is in custody,” Kaine wrote. “The United States should also insist that any charges brought forward against Mr. Rusesabagina be presented in an open and transparent manner and any trial be conducted fairly. Rwanda’s treatment of Mr. Rusesabagina will be a measure of its own commitment to justice, the rule of law, and the democratic principles the country has sought to emulate since the 1994 genocide.” 

During the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, Rusesabagina saved more than 1,200 lives by sheltering refugees at the hotel he managed in the nation’s capital, Kigali. President George W. Bush awarded Rusesabagina the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. A Belgian citizen, Rusesabagina is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. 

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

 

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

I write to share my concerns regarding the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina earlier this week by the Government of Rwanda. As you know, Mr. Rusesabagina is a lawful permanent resident of the United States who has been internationally recognized for helping to save over 1,200 lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Mr. Rusesabagina is a recipient of both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice’s annual award for achievement in international human rights.

While the circumstances surrounding the arrest are currently unclear, what is certain is the Government of Rwanda’s mistreatment of its political opponents, like Mr. Rusesabagina. Rwanda has been frequently cited by the Department of State, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organizations for arbitrary detention, torture, repression of political opponents, and unexplained deaths of individuals held in custody. 

I ask that the Department of State communicate to the Government of Rwanda that the safety of Mr. Rusesabagina must be guaranteed while he is in custody. The United States should also insist that any charges brought forward against Mr. Rusesabagina be presented in an open and transparent manner and any trial be conducted fairly. Rwanda’s treatment of Mr. Rusesabagina will be a measure of its own commitment to justice, the rule of law, and the democratic principles the country has sought to emulate since the 1994 genocide. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Sincerely,

Tim Kaine

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