CHICAGO – Today Paul Rusesabagina’s family discovered that the Rwandan government has stopped providing food, water and medication to Paul while he is in prison. Paul’s wife Taciana said “we are all incredibly frightened and don’t know how my husband will get food and water to survive. We think they are trying to harm him.” In addition, Paul told the family that their 5 minute call this morning would be the last that he could make to them, and that communications are being cut off. Paul told the family “they cut everything.”
Rusesabagina believes this is an attempt to coerce him to return to the trial that he has been boycotting since March 12. All of the conditions of his imprisonment have changed over the last two weeks. He was moved to a new cell with unknown cell mates who are likely there to report on him to the government. Now his food, water, medicine and access to his family through short weekly phone calls is being cut off. Of particular concern is the fact that the doctor the Rwandan government provided prescribed three bottles of water a day, and he is not receiving those.
Paul’s lawyers attempted to visit him in prison this morning. They were stopped at the gate and not allowed to enter. The lawyers received word yesterday that Paul’s food would be changed and Paul informed the family of the full changes this morning.
Rusesabagina has been in a Rwandan jail for 280 days since his kidnapping in late August, 2020. He was tortured on arrival and held in solitary confinement for over 250 of those days. Withholding food is also nothing short of torture, and is a massive violation of his fundamental human rights. The UN’s Nelson Mandela rules, along with every other legal document dealing with incarceration, provide that feeding prisoners is the absolute responsibility of the government that holds the person.
Withdrawing Rusesabagina’s food and water supply means simply that he has no access to food or water, and appears to be yet another inhumane form of punishment being applied by the Rwandan government.
The internationally recognized Mandela Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners state that “Every prisoner shall be provided by the administration at the usual hours with food of nutritional value adequate for health and strength, of wholesome quality and well prepared and served.” In addition “drinking water shall be available to every prisoner whenever he needs it.”
Paul Rusesabagina has been badly mistreated during his time in prison in Rwanda. The Rwandan government has also made it clear that there will be no fair trial in his case, as fair trial rules have been violated at every step along the way since his kidnapping and arbitrary detention.
The United States, Belgium, the EU and the international community need to act IMMEDIATELY intervene with the Rwandan government, ensure that Paul Rusesabagina is once again provided with food, and demand his immediate release.