In reaction to Paul Rusesabagina’s sentence, the United States, Belgium, his family, NGOs and others have tagged the trial as being not fair and overpowered by political influence.
Paul Rusesabagina, a man portrayed in a film as a life-saving hero during the Rwandan 1994 genocide has been found guilty by a Rwandan court on Monday of being part of a group responsible for terrorist attacks and sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Rusesabagina boycotted the verdict on Monday after declaring he did not expect justice in a trial he called a “sham”.
Rusesabagina’s daughter, Carine Kanimba, said the verdict means nothing to the family, because her father who she says was kidnapped in violation of international law should be released and allowed to come home.
“My father knows that his rights were violated…that’s why he decided to step out of the trial, and this is all political,” she said, adding that her father was “a political prisoner”.
“The charges are completely invented.”
The daughter said her family was “very worried” about Rusesabagina’s health and was afraid he would die in prison.
The U.S. States Department Spokesman, Ned Price said, “the reported lack of fair trial guarantees calls into question the fairness of the verdict.” They urged the Rwandan government “to take steps to examine the shortcomings in Rusesabagina’s case and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future.”
“Despite repeated appeals from Belgium on this matter … Mr Rusesabagina did not benefit from a fair and equitable trial; particularly with regard to the rights of the defence,” Belgium’s Foreign Minister, Sophie Wilmes said in a statement.
“The presumption of innocence was not respected either. These elements de facto call into question the trial and the judgement.”
“In the meantime, Belgium remains in close contact with Mr Rusesabagina,” it said.
The statement said Wilmes would hold talks with her Rwandan counterpart this week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
There were “numerous fair trial violations including Rusesabagina’s arrest under false pretences and unlawful transfer to Rwanda, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention following his rendition to Rwanda”, according to Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes.
“Fair trial violations in the case were a disservice to the course of justice and to the victims and survivors of the attacks for which Rusesabagina and others were accused of being responsible.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said there were “multiple violations” of the right to a fair trial and that “Rwanda courts are overpowered by political influence.”