How a UK judge exposed and shamed Paul Rusesabagina

A British Magistrate last week approved the extradition request from Rwanda against four Genocide suspects.
Rwandans in Montreal, Canada demonstrate outside a venue where Rusesabagina and  other revisionists of the Rwandan Genocide were to hold a conference.
Rwandans in Montreal, Canada demonstrate outside a venue where Rusesabagina and other revisionists of the Rwandan Genocide were to hold a conference.

A British Magistrate last week approved the extradition request from Rwanda against four Genocide suspects.

Among the many witnesses for the defence was Paul Rusesabagina. Below is an excerpt from the ruling which deals with Rusesabagina’s testimony. The case was heard by Judge Anthony Evans, Designated District Judge, City of Westminster Magistrate’s Court.

The second witness to be considered at this point is Paul Rusesabagina who was called on behalf of Dr. Bajiniya, the previous one having been called by Mr Munyaneza. His father was a Hutu and his mother a Tutsi. His wife is a Tutsi.

After attending a Seventh Day Adventist School he studied Theology and then moved into the hotel trade. He had been working in a hotel in Kigali but in April 1994 moved to the Hotel Mille Collines. Whilst there he saved 1268 refugees. None was killed, taken out or beaten. When asked in examination in chief how he had managed this, he replied that it was ‘with the help of God’ but he also used his acquaintances and friends.

He left Rwanda in September 1996 after being almost killed by the Directorate of Military Intelligence. However, he gave no explanation for this, nor how it was attempted. This is somewhat perplexing as on his own account he was regarded as a hero for his actions, particularly as some members of the present government are among those allegedly saved.

From 1994 onwards he was approached by film makers, on his evidence, to make a film about his experiences, but it was not until 2003 that work started on the film “Hotel Rwanda”.

In 2002 he was to be invested by President Kagame with an award for bravery, but did not travel for “personal reasons” - although these were not explained.

In spite of his reason for leaving 1996, he returned in 2003 with the film makers and survivors were interviewed resulting in fifteen hours of tapes.

According to a statement filed by Mr. Terry George, the director of the film, among those interviewed were members of the Kagame government, although the witness has declined in his statement to name those people.

Mr. George does not mention his being accompanied by Mr. Rusesabagina.

In 2004 he went back to Rwanda with his wife, younger child and two young cousins to show them the country. Whilst there, he left as he did not consider it safe, but his wife and the children stayed on.

Upon the film’s release it was screened specially in Kigali for the government by Mr George. According to the latter’s statement, Mr. Rusesabagina pulled out of the trip at the last moment on the grounds of personal safety, but was again content for his wife to go.

About this time, it would appear that the Rwandan authorities began criticizing the witness, because he had been speaking out against the government. Subsequently, he has published his autobiography.

As far as his personal circumstances are concerned, he now lives in Belgium. He has a transport company in Zambia and has set up a Foundation, the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, which is funded through money from his speeches and the seeking of donations.

He has been given medals and awards mainly in America, which like the setting up of the Foundation appear to coincide with or post date the release of the film. He describes himself as a humanitarian.

I do not accept that this witness may be regarded as an expert witness. He possesses no qualifications to this end and his only publication appears to be his autobiography. His evidence is that of an implacable opponent of the regime and cannot in any way be regarded as that of an expert.

It would also appear that he has never given evidence before as an expert. He gives examples in his statement of reasons for saying that the defendants would not receive a fair trial, but many go back to the 1990s, which as stated above when dealing with the earlier witness, are of historical interest only. Any trials conducted in gacaca courts are also not relevant.

According to this witness, any successful Hutu will be killed, imprisoned or be forced into exile but one historical example only is given. There are allegations of lack of judicial independence but the examples given are again of historic interest only. There are a number of wild and general allegations about Human Rights in Rwanda which are made without any supporting proof and he dismissed the judicial reforms as a “smokescreen”.

He also deals with prison conditions. It is agreed by the expert witnesses that the prison conditions are deplorable, but none of them goes as far as this witness as saying that there are ten times as many prisoners accommodated as the numbers the prisons were built for; that prisoners are used as, effectively, slave labour in the Congo; and, strangest of all, that there are secret jails located in unidentified areas unknown to humanitarians, human rights activists and journalists. He produces no supporting evidence for any of these allegations.

In his conclusion, he stated that he had never known Dr. Bajinya. Because of the conditions in Rwanda as he had described them in his statement, Dr. Bajinya would face the possibility of death. The cross-examination of the witness began in an unusual way. He agreed that he had been sitting near the dock when the defendants entered but denied speaking to Dr. Bajinya. He admitted knowing one of the other defendants - Mr. Ugirashebuja - although he could only remember his Christian name.

He eventually admitted that he had spoken to Dr. Bajinya, saying in Kinyarwanda - “How are you? How are you doing?” His explanation was that he had spoken to Dr. Bajinya as he was the nearest defendant. He had been manager of the Mille Collines Hotel until November 1992.

He had then transferred to the Diplomat, but after the killing started, the manager of the Mille Collines telephoned him to say that he was leaving and so he moved there as the government was leaving Kigali for Gitarama.

He admitted that he knew most of the Habyarimana government who had been in power prior to 1994. He knew them through his job, not as personal friends in the sense that they would visit each others’ homes. He was then asked about his knowledge of various witnesses called on behalf of Dr. Bajinya. He admitted that he and George Rutaganda had grown up together.

The latter became Vice President of the Interahamwe. He had seen him many times in the period April - June 1994. He was aware of his conviction by the ICTR and had refused to testify for him. He was not aware of the massacre of 11th April nor of the importation of half a million machetes in 1993/4.

As far as he was concerned Rutaganda was a good man who gave children safe conduct through roadblocks. He accepted that bourgmestres had effective control of the communes. Another name put to him was that of Bagosora. He stated that this man was not a friend but was staying at the Diplomat Hotel when it was under his management.

People came to close the Mille Collines Hotel and the witness called contacts by telephone to seek help including from Bagosora. By this time he had his telephone number in his personal “black book”. He was then referred to the Amended indictment in the ICTR case number 00-56-01 dated 23rd August 2004. The first named defendant on the indictment was Augustin Bizimungu who was Chief of Staff of the Rwandan army.

On 17th June, the witness went to see Bizimungu to give him supplies to, in his own words, “buy favours”. At that time the militia was getting into the hotel. Bizimungu returned there with the witness and told them to get out. As with Bagosora, who is mentioned in the indictment but is not joined in it, Bizimungu was a “good man”. He was directed to various parts of the indictment, but his overall comment was that he learned not to trust allegations when they came from the Rwandan government.

This ignored the fact that this was an ICTR investigation and prosecution. The second named defendant was Augustin Ndindiliyimana who was Chief of Staff of the Gendarmerie Nationale. The witness did not regard him as a personal friend but would have a drink with him and had his telephone number in his “little black book”. Again various matters were put to him from the indictment but again he denied hearing of them.

His only function at the hotel was to welcome and entertain the people in the government. He was then asked about his book. He stated that he had saved the lives of 1268 people - “peasant and elite”. Some were saved by God, but God is helped by people. He persuaded the militia not to kill people in the hotel by giving them drinks. He also learned of pending attacks on the hotel from these sources.

He had not at the time mentioned the name of “generals” because they were involved in “butchering” elsewhere. He did not want their role in helping at the hotel to be known as it could have worked against them. He denied that there was UN observers in the hotel, only four soldiers. He also denied that the UN soldiers had fought off three attacks and bombardments. He also alleged that one of the UN personnel had made a profit out of the refugees by buying their cars and exporting them. He said that it was wrong to make a profit out of the refugees.

He denied that he had charged the refugees and had threatened to evict those who did not pay. He was then shown three faxes on this very point - two from the refugees and the third from Sabena, the owners of the hotel which instructed him not to put pressure on those who could not pay. He claimed that all these documents were faked. He had never received instructions not to charge and he had never taken any money.

I note that attached to the statement of Mr George is an article he wrote for the Washington Post in which he said “…… that he had charged people to stay in the rooms (a fact we had highlighted and explained in the film)”. 

As far as the fax from Sabena is concerned, I am satisfied that it is genuine. At the top there is the date and time of transmission. There are in fact two such entries, one dated 18th May 1994, the date of the Memo, which appears to be an internal transmission within the company from the sender of the Memo, and a second dated 19th May from the Sabena chairman.

The other two documents are the messages which were allegedly sent by the refugees. There is no such information about date and time of transmission on these, but as these are the documents copies of which were faxed, then there would not be such information on them. This appears only on the copy which reaches the recipient. I am satisfied also about their genuineness.

He was then asked about his knowledge of the various witnesses who would give evidence if necessary on behalf of Dr Bajinya, but first admitted to knowing Jean- Damascene-Ntaganzwa. He admitted knowing Edward Karemera, Secretary General of the MRND; Joseph Nzirorera, who he described as a minister in the Government; Matthieu Ngirumpatse who was President of MRND; George Rutaganda, a life long friend, who was Vice President; Gaudence Nyirasafari who is a relative of Dr. Bajinya and has been identified earlier as actively involved in MRND politics.

He stated that he knew her as his wife was a nurse at the Central Hospital in Kigali, where Dr. Bajinya worked. He also incidentally mentioned studying abroad and said that in order to do so it was necessary to obtain patronage from someone in the President’s circle. Dr. Bajinya studied in Canada from 1989 to 1991. He also knew Jean Baptiste Ndalihoranye as a minister and is still acquainted with him in Belgium. The same thing obtained with Jean-Marie Nkezabera who was a high ranking MRND official and Member of Parliament.

He has become acquainted with Michel Niyibizi since moving to Belgium. The same obtains with Joseph Matata. The witness stated this man had not been in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, but this is clearly contradicted by Mr. Matata himself.

On further cross-examination he stated that the Human Rights agencies are biased in favour of the RPF and that UN troops helped the RPF.

The RPF killed the President and the President of Burundi and so are responsible for the genocide. The people manning the roadblocks were supporters of Kagame. What occurred was not a systematic government driven genocide.

In summary, therefore, this is a witness who was presented as an independent witness who could give evidence on the question of Human Rights. Unlike Ntaganzwa he did not ever mention having any contacts in the country who kept him informed and up to date.

He had not lived in Rwanda since 1996, so it is difficult to see how he can speak with any authority on the current situation, indeed on his own admission in cross examination, he knows nothing of the legal aid position nor the current position with regard to the judiciary nor other relevant matters such as the detention facilities for any defendants transferred back to Rwanda.

He was well acquainted with leading members of the MRND and government ministers and also with a number of Dr. Bajinya’s witnesses. On his own evidence he was able to call on senior genocidaires for favours.

Some of his subsequent statements eg that the Human Rights agencies support the RPF; that the roadblocks were manned by RPF and that there was no systematic government led genocide are so contrary to all evidence and facts placed before this court as to be worthless.

He was not independent. He is clearly a very strong opponent of the present regime, even going so far as to suggest that it was responsible for the genocide, and making other wild and exaggerated claims. I have spent a great deal of time looking at this evidence.

The government had indicated that they were prepared to have this evidence read but the defence called him. It has been suggested that the cross-examination was aimed at a character assassination.

In reality what it did was expose the background to this evidence and show that the evidence was not that of an independent expert, but rather that of a man with a background strongly allied to the extremist Hutu faction, ‘and as  such cannot be considered as independent and reasoned. In the light of the bias displayed, I am satisfied that no weight can be attached to this evidence.”

Ends

 

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