KIGALI, 26 February 2021 – The hero of Hotel Rwanda, the Hollywood movie on the 1994 Genocide, has failed in his effort to move his trial from Rwanda to Belgium.
Paul Rusesabagina, 66, a Belgian national of Rwandese descent, has argued since the beginning of proceedings before the Kigali high court that he is a Belgian hostage, being held illegally.
The Kigali high court on Thursday ruled that the case should continue, throwing out Rusesabagina’s request.
You are not a “Belgian hostage”, the judge ruled, explaining that the defendant never renounced his Rwandese nationality.
His lawyers promised to appeal the ruling without delay.
Rusesabagina was made famous after Don Cheadle played him in Hotel Rwanda, depicting the heroic efforts he made to save hundreds of people during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
The film [watch trailer by clicking on link at the end of this article] highlights his role in saving the lives of about 1,000 people at one of Kigali’s luxury hotels where he worked as manager.
He left the country in 1996 for Belgium, going on to secure Belgian nationality through asylum.
After obtaining a Green Card, he moved to the United States from where he has been active in opposition politics in exile.
Rusesabagina is accused of sponsoring deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019 by the FLN, the armed wing of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a coalition of opposition parties which he heads.
He was arrested and detained in Dubai last August, before being flown to Rwanda pursuant to an international warrant, according to Kigali.
Rusesabagina has argued that he was abducted, not arrested; and that his extradition from Dubai to Rwanda would be rendition, especially if he is considered a Rwandese national, as the high court argued Thursday.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, the European Union and human rights organizations have all denounced his arrest, detention and trial in Rwanda.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday said it is engaged in “high-level” talks about the case with the government of Rwanda.
“We believe that the legal process adjudicating his case should be fair and transparent, should respect the rule of law, and it must be consistent with Rwanda’s own commitments and human rights obligations internationally,” State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, told reporters.
Russia has urged Rwanda to ensure that he has a fair trial.