CHICAGO – Dec. 10, 2020 – Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the United Nations passing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of the best ways the world can pay homage to human rights right now is to free humanitarian and hero Paul Rusesabagina.
During the 1994 Genocide, Rusesabagina saved 1,268 people as later documented in the film Hotel Rwanda. George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for “remarkable courage and compassion in the face of genocidal terror.” Since then, he has been a tireless activist for the human rights of all people inside and outside of Rwanda. In 2011, he was awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize.
“When Rwanda desperately needed to be the center of the universe, the world instead turned away. As a genocidal assault was unleashed on the Tutsi people, the community of nations, to their everlasting shame, stood by and did nothing. And as a consequence, nearly one million Rwandans were massacred in just 100 days. But while the mighty and powerful found reasons and excuses to turn away, Paul Rusesabagina, a self-described ordinary man, did not turn away. Paul’s brave and profoundly decent actions as the manager of the Hotel des Milles Collines, saved the lives of over 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had taken refuge in his hotel,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, the president of the Lantos Foundation..
“What is remarkable about Paul Rusesabagina’s achievement is it was not the result of a grandiose plant to thwart the evil that was raging outside the gates of his hotel, no, not at all. Paul would be the first to say that minute to minute, day to day, making it up as he went along, he was simply determined to do one more thing to save lives for one more day. Where did he find the strength and humanity to do this? To live out the idea that he was indeed his brothers’ and his sisters’ keeper? I don’t know. But I do know that we can perhaps hope to find similar strength and humanity from following his example.”
Since leaving Rwanda, Rusesabagina has been an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame. It was for this reason that he was kidnapped on August 27th. He was bound, blindfolded, tortured and taken to Kigali where he was arrested and thrown in jail. Rusesabagina is a Belgian citizen and permanent resident of the U.S. His kidnapping and treatment are violations of international law, and he should be immediately released.
While the charges against Rusesabagina look serious, the main crime he committed was to speak out against Kagame, who has been called a “benevolent dictator.”
Outside groups from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International have criticized Kagame and his government for the complete control they exert over Rwandans in and outside of the nation.
The theme for this year’s International Human Rights Day is “Stand up for Human Rights.” There are few better ways to stand up for human rights than by releasing human rights hero Paul Rusesabagina.