Blinken raised ‘serious concerns’ about human rights with Kagame in Rwanda

Speaking at a press conference with his Rwandan counterpart on Thursday, Blinken said he had raised “serious concerns” about human rights during a previous meeting with Kagame, including the case of Rwandan citizen and US permanent resident Paul Rusesbagina.

“We believe that people in every country should be able to express their opinions without fear of fear, imprisonment, violence or any other form of repression,” Blinken said at a press conference alongside Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta.

“[We] It underscores our concerns about the lack of fair trial guarantees provided to him,” added Blinken, referring to Rusesbagina’s case.

“We are calling on the government to address concerns about the legal protections it has been given in this case and to put safeguards in place to avoid similar consequences in the future,” Blinken added later in response to a reporter’s question.

Rusesbagina was the inspiration for the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison Court in Kigali in September 2021. According to a statement released in July, the US State Department previously said he had been wrongfully detained.

After Blinken’s meeting with Rwandan government officials, Anais Kanimba, one of Rusesbagina’s daughters, told CNN, “We believe that the US relationship with Rwanda will be strong enough for the release of our father on a humanitarian basis if it is worthy of economic and credible cooperation.”

In a conversation before Blinken’s visit to Kigali, Kanimba told CNN that the family was deeply concerned about Rusesbagina’s health. She said he had suffered a stroke three or four months ago and without proper treatment he could have another illness.

“He is a 68-year-old man who has been in prison for two years in a difficult situation. He is also a cancer survivor,” she said.

“Anything can happen to him and they don’t have proper medical care for him, they are not willing to put him there and that’s why we want the Secretary of State to fully advocate for our father. He can come back home and get proper medical treatment,” Kanimba said. .

Rwandan Foreign Minister Biruta said Rusebagina’s judicial process complied with Rwandan and international laws.

“We will urge our partners to respect the sovereignty of Rwanda and the laws of Rwanda and its institutions,” Biruta said.

Blinken also said he had raised the issue with Kagame of “credible reports” related to Rwanda’s alleged support for the rebel group M23 and allegations of Rwandan troops being sent to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

“My message to both [DRC] President Tshisekedi and President Kagame are the same. Any support or cooperation to any armed group in eastern DRC threatens local communities and regional stability. And every country in the region must respect the territorial integrity of the others,” Blinken said at a press conference.

According to previous CNN reporting, Rwanda has previously denied allegations that the Congolese government supports M23 and has sent troops to the border. M23 has also denied him Rwandan support.

Blinken added that Tshisekedi and Kagame have agreed to engage in direct talks with each other and that both leaders are ready to resume talks with armed groups.

Later on Thursday, Blinken took part in a wreath-laying ceremony for the victims of the 1994 genocide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

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