It’s never fun to say “I told you so” but we told you so.
At the beginning of the trial in the iconic film, A Few Good Men, Kevin Bacon’s character starts his opening statement by saying, “These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.” He is referring to how the character William Santiago died. In the case of Rwanda vs. Paul Rusesabagina, there are also facts that are not in dispute. The facts in question here are that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda.
Everyone working on Rusesabagina’s behalf has been making this argument since he was kidnapped last August. You can only imagine how happy I was when I read that the man who perpetrated the kidnapping admitted it. Pastor Constantin Niyomwungere told the court, “Myself, the pilot and cabin crew knew we were coming to Kigali. The only person who didn’t know where we were headed was Paul.”
While Rwandan law says tricking someone to go someplace they would not go on their own is kidnapping, this court ruled that Rusesabagina was “tricked” and not kidnapped. This is a distinction without a difference.
Here are the facts of the case:
- On August 27, Rusesabagina was kidnapped from Dubai and taken to Rwanda when he thought he was going to Burundi (he left Rwanda and renounced his citizenship in 1996. In 2003, he needed a visa to travel to Rwanda). In September, Human Rights Watch determined he had been “forcibly disappeared.”
- Rusesabagina was denied access to his preferred legal team. At first, Rwanda had assigned him counsel. These lawyers never brought up his kidnapping. Even once he was allowed access to part of his team, he has never been able to work with the team hired by his family.
- Rusesabagina has been denied access to medication he needs. He is a cancer survivor and suffers from hypertension. A Belgian physician examined him several months ago and prescribed several medications. He has yet to receive them and currently suffers from headaches and dizziness.
- Rusesabagina has been denied the materials he needs to prepare his defense. All documents pertaining to the defense have been confiscated by jail officials. The lights inhis cell are turned off at 5:00 pm. They claim he has what he needs and have pointed out he has a desk with a shelf. A desk and a shelf are useless without the needed materials.
- Rusesabagina has been denied access to his family. Every week, he gets five minutes to use the phone. Whom should he call? Family? His lawyer?
- Rusesabagina was cleared of these same charges in 2010. This is not Paul Kagame’s first bite at this apple. These charges first were leveled against Rusesabagina 11 years ago and they were disproven. Kagame had receipts from Western Union that he claimed proved Rusesabagina was funding terrorists but they were fakes. In fact, when Kagame took his “evidence” to U.S. and Belgian authorities, they said it was not credible. The U.S. has worked with the Kagame government and deported Rwandan nationals when there was real evidence. This is not the case here.
These are the facts of this case and they are not in dispute. The only reason Paul Rusesabagina sits in a Kigali jail today is that he has dared to speak out against a dangerous autocrat. In a few weeks, Rwanda will commemorate the 1994 Genocide with reenactments all over the nation. In February, Genocide Watch issued a new alert for Rwanda. I just hope it’s not a dress rehearsal.
It was clear from the get-go that this politically motivated trial would be nothing more than for show and now that is exactly what is happening.