Allegations of political discrimination in Rwanda

Allegations of political discrimination in Rwanda

The Rwandan activist Paul Rusesabagina, the former manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines, which sheltered more than 1200 people from the Rwandan genocide in 1994, disappeared on 27 August 2020 in Dubai. He reappeared on 31 August 2020 in prison in Kigali, having reportedly been flown to Rwanda on a Greek airline frequently used by President Paul Kagame.

Vincent Lurquin, Mr Rusesabagina’s Belgian lawyer, points the finger at the Rwandan authorities and claims that his client was unable to voluntarily return to Rwanda: ‘This is an abduction. He was in Dubai, they bundled him into a private plane, put him to sleep, and woke him up in Kigali. It was clear that he didn’t want to go to Kigali at all; he had taken refuge in Belgium’.

The Rwandan authorities have stated that Mr Rusesabagina was arrested on ‘an international warrant’ and is accused of being ‘the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits … operating out of various places in the region and abroad’.

On 24 September 2020, French Member of the European Parliament Thierry Mariani of the Identity and Democracy Group tabled a written parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. MEP Mariani asked, “does the Vice-President / High Representative intend to make a statement on the many allegations of political discrimination in Rwanda?”

On 12 November, High Representative and Vice-President Borrell formally responded on behalf of the European Commission. He reported that the Commission is already aware of “the arrest of Mr Rusesabagina, and the charges brought against him”.

High Representative and Vice-President Borrell explained that “as a result of various demarches, the EU Head of Delegation received reassurance that the rights for a fair trial and due and transparent process will be fully respected, that Mr Rusesabagina will be granted access to legal counsel and medical attention and that legal proceedings would be public, whilst in respect of limitations imposed by COVID-19 measures” and “as a Belgian citizen, the Belgian Government ensures Mr Rusesabagina’s consular protection”.

High Representative and Vice-President Borrell explained that “two visits have already taken place, and confirmed that he is in good condition and is well treated” and “Mr Rusesabagina has access to legal and medical assistance; he has himself chosen two Rwandan lawyers and confirmed his satisfaction with their legal assistance, and the Belgian authorities were able to hand over the medication that he requires”.

In closing, he declared that “while the circumstances of his flight to Rwanda are not yet fully clear, Mr Rusesabagina did not claim that he was forced to board the plane” and he also added that “it is our understanding that these circumstances will be further clarified and explained during the legal procedure”.

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