Rwanda: Joint Statement From the Clooney Foundation for Justice and the ABA Center for Human Rights on the Trial of Paul Rusesabagina in Rwanda

Paul Rusesabagina.
press release

The Clooney Foundation for Justice and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights announced today that the ABA Center for Human Rights intends to monitor the upcoming trial of Paul Rusesabagina in Rwanda  as  part  of  CFJ's  TrialWatch  initiative. Mr. Rusesabagina,  whose  actions  to  save  lives  during  the Rwandan genocide  were  dramatized  in  the  film Hotel  Rwanda,is  a  vocal  critic  of  Rwanda's  current  ruling party, which he has accused of committing human rights violations.  He has been charged with forming an armed group, financing terrorism, complicity in kidnapping, and armed robbery, among other offenses.

Mr. Rusesabagina disappeared on August 27, 2020 in Dubai. On August 31, 2020,the Rwanda Investigation Bureau  announced  that  Mr. Rusesabagina  was  in  their  custody  and,  in a  series  of  tweets,alleged  that  he "[wa]s  suspected  to be  the  founder,  leader,  sponsor  and member of violent, armed, extremist terror  outfits including MRCD and PDR-Ihumure."

Mr. Rusesabagina's family have alleged that he was initially denied access to counsel of his choosing and to medication.  Further, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has publicly asserted Mr. Rusesabagina's guilt in the weeks since his arrest, stating: "Rusesabagina heads a group of terrorists that have killed Rwandans. He will have to pay for these crimes."

Rwanda is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Under these treaties, it has an obligation to respect Mr. Rusabagina's right to a fair trial, including the right to legal counsel of his choosing and the right to be presumed innocent.

Trial monitoring, which entails sending a neutral observer into court to observe trial proceedings, permits an impartial assessment of whether a trial meets regional and international standards.George and Amal Clooney stated,  "Our  TrialWatch  monitors  will  be  on  hand  to  ensure  that  the  proceedings  adhere  to  international standards of due process and that Mr. Rusesabagina will be given a fair and transparent trial."

President  Kagame has stated that Mr.  Rusesabagina's  trial  will  be  open.   The  Clooney  Foundation  for Justice and the ABA Center for Human Rights call on the Government of Rwanda to follow through on  this  assurance  and  facilitate  public  access  to  Mr.  Rusesabagina's  trial,  including  by  allowing international trial monitors to observe the proceedings.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 14, the trial court held an initial hearing, during which Mr. Rusesabagina was formally charged.  Mr. Rusesabagina sought bail on grounds of ill-health.  The prosecution requested that he be detained for a further month while the investigation continued.  A decision on bail is expected on September 17.

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