Rwanda has pushed back against criticism of the court verdict in the conclusion of the seven-monthlong trial of Paul Rusesabagina at Nyarugenge Court of Justice in Kigali. Rusesabagina was found guilty and handed a 25-year jail term.
Belgium, which is Rusesabagina’s adoptive country since 1996, was the first to complain, saying that his rights were abused throughout the trial.
“At the end of these legal proceedings, and despite repeated appeals from Belgium, it must be concluded that Mr Rusesabagina has not been given a fair and equitable trial, in particular with regard to the rights of the defence. The presumption of innocence was also not respected. These elements de facto call into question the trial and the verdict,” said Sophie Wilmès, Belgian deputy PM and minister of Foreign Affairs.
Kigali on Wednesday cancelled bilateral meetings between its Foreign Affairs Minister, Vincent Biruta, and Belgian officials in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, saying, “The statement of the minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium reflects the contempt shown by Belgium towards the Rwandan judicial system since the start of this trial, despite the significant contribution of relevant Belgian institutions to the investigation of this case.
Rusesabagina’s family and supporters also denounced the ruling.
His daughter, Carine Kanimba, said that all the criticism that Rwanda is getting indicates that it was “a show trial,” and called on the international community to put more pressure on Rwanda to ensure his release.
The US said it was concerned with the ruling and urged Rwanda to “examine shortcomings in Rusesabagina’s case.”
Human Rights Watch said the trial indicates how Rwanda’s courts are overpowered by political influence.
But Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Aimable Havugiyaremye, said that all the criticism that Rwanda was facing is unfounded, and that the trial was live online for transparency.