The Verdict in Paul Rusesabagina's Case – a Brief Legal Review
By: Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation
It has been clear throughout the trial that there was no credible evidence presented. This lack of evidence was crystalized in the verdict, which relied heavily on Paul's written statement, made shortly after his kidnapping in August 2020, after four days of torture and without a lawyer present. This statement was based on a litany of demands made by a Rwandan Investigative Bureau agent, and Paul denied and denounced the statement later in court.
In a highly irregular move, the written judgement was not released for ten days. The judges did read the full judgement in court, which suggests that the delay is another tactic to limit Paul's rights to an appeal.
There has been much coverage of the Judgement in the United States and world press, focused overwhelmingly on the many violations of Paul's fair trial and other human rights. Significantly, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmès, issued a statement saying that Paul had not received a fair trial: (https://wilmes.belgium.be/
After Wilmès issued her statement, the Rwandans cancelled a meeting between Ms. Wilmès and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta at the United Nations General Assembly. The Belgian Parliament is now considering cutting aid to Rwanda.
The United States State Department said that the trial irregularities called the verdict into question (https://twitter.com/
The EU Parliament said that member states are considering sanctions because of Paul's case https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/
The international independent monitors from the American Bar Association and Clooney Foundation for Justice also issued a statement (a precursor to their full report yet to come), saying that the verdict is undermined by the violations of Paul's rights. https://cfj.org/
The International Bar Association added a strong condemnation of the unfair trial. They noted that: "this case highlights the environment in which critics of the Rwandan government have been deemed enemies of the state and deprived of their liberties, as well as the lengths taken to avert justice through a fair trial." https://www.ibanet.org/
As for any pending appeal, Paul would need to be able to read his judgement and give instructions to his legal team before a decision can be made. The written judgement was just released yesterday. Paul has not yet seen it. His Rwandan lawyers are still unable to bring him any documents in jail or even to take any notes of their conversations with him. At this time we doubt that Paul will ever be able to read his judgement, or be able to make an informed decision on whether or not to exercise his right to appeal. He has 30 days from the date of notification of the judgement in which to do so, now 20 days from the time the judgement was published.
The single main concern remains Paul's health, and securing his immediate humanitarian release. He is still suffering daily symptoms linked to the deprivation of his prescription hypertension medication (which was provided by the Belgian Embassy in Kigali in September 2020 and still not given to Paul.) Although he is in remission from cancer, he has not received a cancer screening since his incarceration began more than a year ago.
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