Tell Secretary Blinken to Call for Release of Paul Rusesabagina
Secretary of State Antony Blinken
To fully commemorate the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, Paul Rusesabagina needs to be freed. Now. Sign our petition to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge him to seek Paul's release.
Twenty-seven years ago today, President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down as he returned from peace talks in Tanzania with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). This event sparked the genocide where at least 800,000 people were butchered by people they had known all of their lives. People picked up machetes and killed friends, family, and coworkers.
Paul Rusesabagina was a hotel manager at the Hotel des Milles Collines. He didn’t set out to be a hero. He has said that the question shouldn’t be why he acted the way he did but why did others not? As a result of his actions, depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda where he was played by Don Cheadle, 1,268 people survived that 10 horrible weeks in 1994. If that does not make him a hero, what does?
Today, as President Paul Kagame oversees the genocide reenactments that are held every year, Rusesabagina is not sitting alongside his country-mate. He sits in jail on trumped-up charges. His real crime is criticizing Kagame. Today, criticizing Kagame or other high-level government officials is a crime. A guilty verdict carries a sentence of five years in prison. Kagame critics don’t often see the inside of a court. More than a few have died under suspicious circumstances.
Fearing for his life, Rusesabagina left Rwanda. Today is a permanent U.S. resident and Belgian citizen. He speaks out against genocide and been a champion for human rights and democracy. He's the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice's Human Rights Prize.
In August, Rusesabagina was kidnapped, blindfolded, and tied up. He was arrested in Kigali and has been in solitary confinement ever since. He has been denied access to the medication he needs (he is a cancer survivor and suffers from hypertension), his family (he gets one five minute call a week – should he talk to his family or lawyer), the lawyers of his choosing (he can talk to one but there are more on his team), and has been given little to eat (he has lost about 50 pounds). Any legal documents his lawyers do get to him being confiscated. The Rwandan government says he has what he needs because he has a chair and a desk with a shelf. The power to his cell is cut every night at 6:00 pm.
Multiple international, human rights organizations have said Rusesabagina was kidnapped or “forcibly disappeared.” No one thinks the trial can be fair. When Kagame saw Belgium helping the Rusesabagina family, he responded by saying that if the assistance continued, “it will have a negative impact on the relationship between the two nations.”
The world has a nasty habit of looking at a genocide, wringing its hands and saying, “never again” but avoiding any actual evidence when it happens again. When faced with genocide, Rusesabagina did not look the other way. He helped the people he could.
We need more people to act like Paul Rusesabagina. The west looked the other way in 1994, it cannot make the same mistake here. We need to bring him home.
For More Information About Paul Rusesabagina and the Situation:
- To learn more about Paul Rusesabagina, visit the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation
- To read the American Bar Association pre-trial report, click here
- Foreign Policy published an article (January 23, 2021) click here
For More Information about President Paul Kagame:
- CNN's "America's disastrous love affair with Rwanda's Paul Kagame"
- The New York Time's "The Dark Underside of Rwanda’s Model Public Image"
- DW's "20 years under Rwanda's 'benevolent dictator' Paul Kagame"
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken
From: Alyson Chadwick
Paul Rusesabagina is a permanent resident of the United States and a Belgian citizen. He is also a Presidential Medal of Freedom Award winner and recipient of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice's Human Rights Prize. Twenty-seven years ago, he saved 1,268 people in the Rwandan genocide.
On August 27, 2020, he was kidnapped, taken to Kigali, and arrested. The charges against him today were brought against him in 2010. Both the American and Belgian governments refused to extradite him then because there was no evidence.
Since Rusesabagina's kidnapping and arrest, he has not had access to basic medical care, his family, his lawyers, any documents that pertain to his defense, and all of the basic human rights required by international law that pertain to people on trial.
If Rwandan President Paul Kagame can kidnap citizens and permanent residents of other countries and get away with it, who is really safe? For years, Western nations have catered to and supported this dictator. That support has to end here, today.
It is time for the U.S. State Department to stand up for its permanent residents and act to bring Paul Rusesabagina home. Now.