By Jean Gatera
The Hotel Rwanda Foundation of terror suspect Paul Rusesabagina has released a press statement announcing that its lawyer will resort to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to file a suit against Rwanda with the central claim being that their client was “kidnapped.”
Rusesabagina who himself confessed he voluntarily boarded the aircraft that brought him to Kigali in his initial court hearing earlier last month, is facing 13 counts of terrorism-related charges (along with 16 other co-conspirators).
Rusesabagina’s Foundation has deliberately dispatched a lawyer to the wrong court (EACJ) in a desperate attempt to generate some media attention to deflect attention from the very real accusations of terrorism against Rusesabagina that Rwandan Prosecution brought against him, backed by documentary and audio-video proof.
However as if indeed propaganda media was in on the game, a blog affiliated to Rusesabagina’s foundation, PRLog.org immediately jumped on the smokescreen lawsuit, to attempt to give it the oxygen of attention. In an article published this Tuesday it pushed the assertions of kidnap, however completely discrediting itself as it failed to mention the facts of how their patron ended up in Kigali, or the charges Prosecution in Kigali has mounted against him. As if taking its cues from this blog – run by Rusesabagina’s publicists in the US – Ugandan misinformation organ Chimpreports picked the article and parroted it, word for word, complete with assertions that “Rusesabagina is innocent”, that he is “a hero”, that “he was kidnapped” and every other propaganda talking point.
But Rusesabagina’s lawyer, who according to the blog is Philippe Larochelle – who however isn’t on the suspect’s legal team in Kigali – is on very flimsy ground, legal experts say. “Rusesabagina has himself in a high-profile media interview said he flew to Kigali thinking he was headed to Bujumbura,” one legal analyst said. “So how can that be kidnap, which is defined as the forceful taking of someone?
Furthermore, Rusesabagina has appeared in three courtroom sessions assisted, with two lawyers, and never questioned the legality of his arrest. “But even if one assumed that their kidnapping tall tales were true, do they expect the EACJ to adjudicate on an incident that allegedly happened in Dubai?
The lawsuit is even more bizarre since Rusesabagina did appoint a legal team to represent him who are not the ones petitioning EACJ. “How will a court recognize self-appointed crusaders acting on behalf of Rusesabagina?” the legal analyst asked with amusement.
EACJ Court has jurisdiction over the interpretation and application of the EAC Treaty establishing a regional intergovernmental organization of 6 Partner States (Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan).
Also, more saliently, the court cannot, and does not substitute itself to national courts. Yet in their press release, Rusesabagina’s campaigners arrogantly write from Chicago: “The East African Community exists to ensure that its member States cannot be allowed to act like this.”
According to our research, the EAC treaty, in its Article 30, limits those whose cases can be heard in the EACJ court, which means EAC residents. “Yet they keep saying Rusesabagina is a Belgian national, and a resident in the US; so why are they filing a complaint in the EACJ? Why not in Dubai, in Belgium or in the US? They probably think they can bully an African court with propaganda!”
The maneuver to file with the EACJ has been exposed as nothing more than a smokescreen. The options of Rusesabagina’s campaigners are dwindling. The man himself acknowledged creating the FLN armed terror group, and confessed to raising funds, and sending money to it. Observers note that Rusesabagina as much as pleaded guilty when he apologized to victims of his sponsored terrorist attacks.
A judge summarized the situation: “all sides agree that crimes were committed. The question now is to determine individual responsibilities”.
With 16 co-accused, it will be very difficult for Rusesabagina to avoid responsibility for ordering terrorist attacks. He is facing trial along with other senior FLN officials including his Vice-President, his spokesperson, and senior commanders but he is the highest ranked FLN official and admitted to be the founder. Moreover, with a viral video that circulating on social media where Rusesabagina openly rallied for armed militia attacks against Rwanda, his foundation lawyers must have realized that their client was basically “between a rock and a hard place,” legally speaking.