Close this search box.

Rusesabagina Trial: Why we should give judicial independence a chance


It is now clear that Paul Rusesabagina was lured into a trap of arrest.  This is how the operation went. A Burundian pastor, allegedly Rusesabagina’s accomplice (or a friend as Rusesabagina believed) had invited him to Burundi to speak to some Burundian churches and/or have meetings with leaders of his armed group (the National Liberation Front [FLN]).

However, the said pastor was in contact with some Rwandan security operatives, who facilitated the process of bringing Rusesabagina to Kigali. This is the side of the story familiar to most people from the beginning, or at least what many suspected. Forget about Al Jazeera and Marc Lamont’s claim of discovering that Rwanda paid for Rusesabagina’s flight.

To believe that the interview with Rwanda’s Minister of Justice provided some new discoveries is akin to believing that John Hanning Speke discovered the source of the River Nile, as if there were no natives around the River before he came. President Kagame himself had, on many occasions, said that Rwanda facilitated the process of Rusesabagina’s arrest, and Jeune Afrique had reported a detailed interview with the said pastor on how Rusesabagina was lured into a trap.

Immediately after his arrest, I had personally written that ‘it looks like he was lured into a trap of arrest as opposed to abduction (kidnapping)’ [… and] I argued that luring a suspect into arrest is more tolerable than abducting him or her, since ‘luring a suspect does not involve violence, and more importantly, it does not violate the sovereignty of the hosting state.’

President Kagame himself had said to CNN’s Richard Quest that if Rusesabagina “was working with somebody in Burundi (…), in the same plot of destabilising our country, and the same person, for example, decided to drive him to Kigali, the person he was working with, and had trusted, and the government was working with that person, how does the government become culpable for that operation?’ Of course, I understand that knowing all this could not have stopped the new Upfront Moderator from chest-thumping himself, but let me return to the main issue because continuing in this line of argument is a distraction.

There are different reasons accomplices turn into informants to help authorities arrest ringleaders of criminal organisations, including immunity from prosecution, protection, money or lenient sentence. The truth should be said: all governments go at a great length to protect their interests and ensure that those destabilising the security and wellbeing of the nation are stopped, and yes, sometimes measures may range from spying on foreign leaders to conducting targeted killings. Other than blaming Rwandan security agents for doing their work, there is nothing really unusual here, as Frank Connelly, in his training manual regarding the use of ‘deception to obtain consent to search’, argues, the work of undercover officer, by design, is to engage ‘in a pattern and practice of deception.’

Similarly, Melanie M. Laflin notes that the U.S. Government, for example, authorises their ‘law enforcement authorities to lure suspects out of their homeland even if an extradition treaty exists with that nation.’ The fundamental question we need to answer here is whether this is legal. The answer is in between. The list of cases in both domestic and international courts where suspects have been wrongly arrested is very long.  The fact remains that some criminals are too difficult to apprehend through normal extradition processes. If you are indicted in Brussels, and, in the course of investigation, you decide to relocate to Texas, it is very likely that those involved in the process would interpret it as evading arrest and, as a result, a non-traditional method of apprehension becomes necessary.

The duty of an independent court is to ensure that during the trial a suspect gets a fair hearing, a right to defence, including challenging the legality of the arrest. However, I do submit that the seriousness of the crime will always be considered whenever the legality of an arrest is being questioned, and if indeed there were some errors in the process, other remedies (such as a reduced sentence etc.) can be provided. As Haveman and I argue elsewhere, some procedural ‘rights are less ‘heavy’, and can be put aside, for instance, in the interest of national security, or counter-balanced by other measures.’ I think every person’s hope and concern at this point should be to demand that the courts be independent in providing a fair and expeditious trial regardless of the current pressure.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Support The Pan African Review.

Your financial support ensures that the Pan-African Review initiative achieves sustainability and that its mission is shielded from manipulation. Most importantly, it allows us to bring high-quality content free of charge to those who may not be in a position to afford it.

You Might Also Like