Appeal to the United States to defend the release of Rusesabagina

Paul Rusesabagina is a hero in every sense of the word.

Then manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines, Rusesabagina saved more than 1,000 lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. the movie “Hotel Rwanda”.

In the years since the release of “Hotel Rwanda”, Rusesabagina received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush and continued to use his lofty platform to denounce the oppressive government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Today, as a result of his political activism, this 67-year-old cancer survivor with cardiovascular problems is fighting for his life in a Rwandan prison.

Rusesabagina is a political prisoner.

In 2020, the Rwandan government abducted Rusesabagina from Dubai and brought him back to Rwanda, where he was tortured and charged with terrorism. For international observers, the outcome of the trial was almost certain. In the State Department’s 2020 Report on Human Rights Practices in Rwanda, analysts noted that “outcomes in genocide, security, and politically sensitive cases (in Rwanda) appear predetermined.” In Rusesabagina’s case, the State Department noted that “the reported lack of fair trial guarantees calls into question the fairness of the verdict”, and the European Union noted that the trial had been “tainted numerous violations of his rights to a fair trial”. Despite these concerns, on September 20, Rusesabagina was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

So how does the United States account for this?

After the Rwandan genocide, Rusesabagina sought asylum in Belgium and later immigrated to San Antonio with her family. He is a permanent US resident and his children are US citizens – and the United States will not remain silent when our residents are threatened.

I made this clear in a December 2020 letter to Kagame and a June 2021 letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The extrajudicial transfer, detention and trial of Rusesabagina violated international law. He was held in solitary confinement, denied confidential access to a lawyer and denied the presumption of innocence. Now he is only allowed to speak to his family for a few minutes a week and Rwandan authorities have repeatedly denied him the medicine he needs to treat a heart condition.

Congress must act quickly to expose the government of Rwanda for actions that endangered Rusesabagina’s life and violated his human rights. Earlier this month, I introduced a bipartisan resolution with U.S. Rep. Young Kim, R-California, calling on the government of Rwanda to release Rusesabagina on humanitarian grounds and allow him to return safely to the United States. United. The resolution also urges the US government to press for his release.

Soon, I hope to bring our resolution to a vote on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Countries around the world take the position of the US Congress seriously and we must urge our allies to condemn Rwanda’s actions. I hope common sense will prevail on Kagame to free Rusesabagina and return him to his family in San Antonio.

His family feels the weight of his absence, and that pain is immeasurable. As long as Rusesabagina remains in a Rwandan prison, this pain lasts. Rusesabagina prides itself on giving a voice to the voiceless. Now we have to speak for him.

Joaquin Castro, a Democrat, represents Texas’ 20th congressional district.

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