Lawyers for “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina on Monday said their client is at risk of torture after his arrest on terrorism charges.
In a complaint with the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Rusesabagina’s attorneys said he has not been able to speak to his legal team or family since his arrest last week. They called for a probe into whether he “is still alive,” The Associated Press reported.
It also claims the lawyer claiming to represent Rusesabagina was appointed without his consent. “[T]here is no way Mr. Rusesabagina would interview and voluntarily hire a lawyer without consulting with his own family first,” the complaint states, according to the AP.
President Paul Kagame has suggested Rusesabagina was tricked into returning to Rwanda, where he has not lived since 1996. Kagame said in a national broadcast that Rusesabagina “brought himself [to Rwanda] — even if he may not have intended it.”
Rusesabagina’s family has said the Belgian citizen and longtime Kagame critic was “kidnapped,” and would never deliberately board a plane to Rwanda.
Rusesabagina last spoke with his family while he was in Dubai. The complaint calls on the United Arab Emirates to prove it was not involved in the arrest by producing “all evidence concerning Mr. Rusesabagina’s recent visit to Dubai, including video footage of him at the hotel and airport and all information available on the airplane that transported him to Kigali.”
Rusesabagina is credited with sheltering more than 1,200 people from Hutu militias during the country’s 1994 genocide. Over a period of about 100 days, the majority ethnic group killed at least 500,000 members of the Tutsi minority and anti-genocide Hutus. Then-President George W. Bush awarded Rusesabagina the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
The Rwandan government has since accused him of involvement with a violent opposition faction. Rusesabagina has said Kagame’s government is targeting him for his history of accusing the administration of human rights abuses.