Tuesday begins the trial against Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the film Hotel Rwanda. The hotel manager, who saved more than 1250 people from atrocities during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, is charged by the government for terrorism. The family insists that this is a revenge of President Paul Kagame. This one denies.
The trial was supposed to start last month, but it was postponed at the last minute. For daughter Carine Kanimba it is an exciting time. According to her, the question is whether the trial will be fair. “The international lawyers are not allowed to represent him, while they have worked in Rwanda and know the legal system well. In addition, the authorities confiscated the legal documents of his Rwandan lawyer. Such matters are confidential,” says Kanimba, who speaks of a retaliation by the Rwandan government.
“My father has been trying to denounce the lack of freedom and democracy in Rwanda for years,” she says, explaining that he is not the only Kagame critic who is imprisoned. “There are so many people trapped because they have spoken out. That‘s what my father fought, and what they tried to kill him a few times. In 2007 he was driven off the road.”
The latest report by Freedom House human rights organisation seems to confirm this. This includes Rwanda with a score of 22 out of 100 on the non-free list, in countries such as Afghanistan (27) and Iraq (31). “Voters and opposition candidates are severely intimidated to control their political choices. Even Rwandans disappear abroad, are threatened, attacked or murdered because of their presumably dislike to the regime,” the document says.
Rwanda rejects this and other criticism as genocide-denying rhetoric and insists that Rusesabagina himself had travelled to Rwanda in August last year, and would not have been kidnapped in Dubai. Nonsense, says Kanimba. “Why would he travel to a country where he wouldn’t be sure of his life?”
Another concern is that Rusesabagina does not receive his high blood pressure medications, but does not. “The Belgian Embassy in Kigali gave them to Rwanda, but my father never had them,” says Kanimba. “He has lost more than 20 kg of body weight. We were afraid that before his trial, he would die of a cerebral hemorrhage.”
has also been involved in the debate by calling for Rusesabagina‘s release in a non-binding resolution. “The EU Parliament strongly condemns the forced disappearance, illegal extradition and the incommunicado detention of Paul Rusesabagina and calls for his immediate release,” said last week’s resolution.