Rwanda cancels meeting with Belgian Prime Minister for criticizing its Human Right record

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President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; File Photo

The Rwandan government has cancelled the scheduled meeting with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister over criticism he made in regard to a recent court verdict that saw President Paul Kagame’s critic sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Rwanda accuses the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium for contempt of its judicial system which it says has been evident since the start of the trial.

This follows a court ruling by Rwanda’s High Court chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes, that Paul Rusesbagina founded and financed a terrorist organization that attacked Rwanda.

The ruling comes more than a year after Rusesabagina was accused of supporting the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, and several other charges of murder, abduction, and armed robbery. In her ruling, Beatrice Mukamurenzi said the accused approved monthly provisions of funds for terrorist activities.

Following the verdict, Belgium Deputy Prime Minister and Minster for Foreign Affairs, Koen Geens, said that Paul Rusesabagina’s trial was not fair and equitable, something Rwanda contends saying the victims of his alleged atrocities deserve justice.

“The victims of terrorist acts of the FLN, admittedly less famous, have just as much right to justice as Mr Rusesbagina and his co-defendants. For this reason, a scheduled bilateral meeting at ministerial level on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York will not take place.” the statement from Rwanda government reads in part.

Rusesabagina left Rwanda in 1996 and sought asylum in Belgium, and later the US. While living in exile, he became the leader of Rwanda’s opposition MRCD group. It has an armed wing, the FLN, which stages attacks in Rwanda.

He is the man who inspired “Hotel Rwanda” after he was credited with saving the lives of over 1,000 people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. His family said he was kidnapped in Dubai and brought back to Rwanda involuntarily, and that he is innocent, AP reported.

Human rights groups and officials in Belgian government have since denounced Rusesabagina’s trial, saying it was nothing more than a means to silence opposition to Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, whom Rusesabagina is a critic of.

Three dozen US senators also wrote to Kagame and urged Rusesabagina’s release last year, and Rwanda has since insisted that Rusesabagina would get a fair trial.

But the trial casts a shadow on Rusesabagina’s once-hailed acts of bravery during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which saw 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic minority, murdered by extremists from the majority Hutu group, the BBC reported.

Rusesabagina was credited with saving the lives of over 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed. His story was later portrayed by Don Cheadle in the Oscar-nominated 2004 movie “Hotel Rwanda.”

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