Tuesday Belgian parliament voted overwhelmingly to support a resolution by Els Van Hoof, a Member of Parliament from CD&V party. The resolution condemned the enforced disappearance, illegal extradition and incommunicado detention of Paul Rusesabagina which took place in August of 2020 when Rwanda used a plane hired through GainJet aviation to kidnap Rusesabagina and take him to Kigali, Rwanda.
The Belgian majority parties of PS, Vooruit, Open VLD, MR, CD&V, Ecolo and Groen voted Tuesday afternoon to approve the resolution. The resolution condemns the kidnapping, detention and treatment that Rusesabagina has been receiving during his kidnapping, torture and more than 260 days in solitary confinement.
The supporters of the resolution did not stop by simply supporting the release of Rusesabagina, they called President Kagame out for numerous additional human rights violations. They said, “We urge the Rwandan authorities to conduct credible and thorough investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, and to prosecute the alleged perpetrators.”
Samuel Cogolati, a Member of Parliament from the Ecolo party said, “I think it is very important that our parliamentary assembly can take this position today and say: beware, a red line has been crossed and we plead for the absolute respect of human rights. Paul Rusesabagina is not just anyone. He is known for having saved the lives of more than a thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus in his hotel, the famous Hotel des Milles Collines, which was immortalized in the film Hotel Rwanda, and who settled in Belgium, who even obtained Belgian nationality in 1999.”
Cogolati continued, “In any case, what is very clear is that there was no international arrest warrant. I think it is important to say this because there is a principle to which we must remain very attached within this commission, it is the Due Process principle, the principle of having the right: no matter what one’s origin, no matter what one’s religion, no matter what one’s ethnicity, to a fair trial”.
The parliamentarians also urged Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès to urge Rwanda to repatriate Rusesabagina. Parliamentarians talked about the case of Guy Theunis as a precedent for Rusesabagina’s repatriation. Theunis was a Belgian priest was arrested in Rwanda in 2005 on suspicion of inciting genocide. Theunis was transferred from Rwanda to Belgium. When he arrived back in Belgium, the judicial investigation against him was completed without any result.
Carine Kanimba, one of Paul Rusesabagina’s daughters, was encouraged by the positive votes of the majority parties for the action on behalf of her father. “My father is proud to have become a Belgian back in 2000 after he fled Rwanda as a refugee to escape the tyranny of Kagame and his cronies. He was sad that he had to denounce his citizenship in Rwanda in order to become Belgium, but that was the law. He embraced his new country only to have them abandon him in his time of need.”
Cogolati decried the treatment of Belgian citizen Rusesabagina by saying, “When I read that he is subjected to cruel and inhuman acts such as being deprived of food, I said to myself that this is completely unacceptable and that we must react once again as representatives of the Belgian people.”
In the United States, the outrage over Kagame’s illegal treatment of Rusesabagina is growing. The Lantos Foundation has submitted a request to the U.S. government to initiate proceedings against the Rwandan Minister of Justice and the head of the Office of Criminal Investigations under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows financial sanctions to be taken against foreigners who violate human rights.
Background – Paul Rusesabagina is the real life hero of the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda and the President and Founder of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation. As portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the film, Rusesabagina saved the lives of 1,268 people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rusesabagina served as manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali. He bravely risked his life to shelter Hutus and Tutsis who were seeking refuge from the genocide that killed more than 800,000 people. His popular autobiography, An Ordinary Man, was published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc. in April 2006.
Contact: Kitty Kurth