Opinion: Dear Prince Charles, don’t shake hands with the tyrant who kidnapped our father

He rescued us from a refugee camp in Rwanda after our biological parents were killed in the 1994 genocide and raised us as his own. We – Karina, who was then one year old, and Anais, who was two years old – were saved in addition to 1268 lives he saved by protecting in a hotel during the genocide.

His story was told in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda and he has received numerous awards for his bravery and humanitarian work.

Over the years, he has become one of the most vocal critics of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Then, in August 2020, our father – now a Belgian citizen and permanent resident of the United States – was kidnapped by the Rwandan government and has been in prison ever since on false charges of more than 650 days.

Now, when representative heads of state, including the Prince of Wales, arrive in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on Monday, they must not turn a blind eye to human rights violations in the host country.

While it is sad that CHOGM is being held this year in a country that does not adhere to the core values ​​and principles of the Commonwealth, we must see this as an opportunity to shed light on Rwanda’s lack of democracy.

Our family asks Prince Charles not to remain silent about this reality and not to shake hands with the tyrant who is holding our father as a political prisoner.

United Nations, Clooney Foundation for Justice, International Bar Association and many others have publicly stated that our father is in prison only because he opposed a government that does not accept any criticism.

The United States recently classified our father as “wrongfully detained,” noting massive irregularities in his capture and trial.

not in Rwanda freedom of speech, the main value of the Commonwealth of Nations and the right for the exercise of which my father was imprisoned. There is also no democracy, Freedom of association or the right to participate in opposition political parties in Rwanda.
Kagame “won” two elections with over 98% of votes in 2017 as well as 93% in 2010 and can run for office for decades after the constitutional change in the controversial referendum 2015. critics regularly harassedhave been ill-treated, tortured, imprisoned, exiled, disappeared or died under suspicious circumstances.
This includes both political opponents and former members of the regime who regarded as potential threats. In Rwanda, only Kagame and a small elite rule.
Our father is also one of the many victims of the Rwandan practice transnational repressiontactics commonly used Russia, China as well as Iranwhen the government goes overboard to silence the critics. In addition to my father’s case, Rwandan officials and agents harass and intimidate opponents in other countries, including the US, UK, and Europe.

Our father was abducted nearly two years ago, lured from our home in San Antonio, Texas, via Dubai, where he was tricked into boarding a flight to Kigali. A Rwandan government agent who introduced himself as a bishop asked our father to come to Burundi and talk to church groups about reconciliation. Boarding a plane in Dubai to fly to Burundi, he was drugged and woke up only to find that he had landed in Kigali, Rwanda, a place where he would never return voluntarily.

Upon arrival he was tortured for four days and forced to give a false confession, which was then used as “evidence” against him. He did not have access to a lawyer of his choice. He was forced to spend 250 days in solitary confinement in violation of Nelson Mandela’s UN rules, which qualify more than 15 days in solitary confinement as torture.
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And what have international observers been exposed to agree is a fictitious court, and no credible evidence has been presented that he was involved in any way in crimes related to terrorism what he was accused of.

The Rwandan government rejects any criticism of these processes, improbably arguing that it acted in accordance with international law.

Even more heartbreaking is that governments like the UK continue to cooperate with the Rwandan regime, including through offshore vulnerable asylum seekers to Rwanda. Not surprisingly, the British government’s willingness to turn a blind eye to widespread human rights violations in Rwanda is met with enormous resistance from churchcivil society and all those who are not indifferent to the fate of those who run for a better life.

Now our father has been sentenced to 25 years in prison, which would be a life sentence for someone who turned 68 last week. Our only wish for his birthday is to bring him home safe and sound. He is a cancer survivor with hypertension whose health is deteriorating while he is incarcerated. His current symptoms, including weakness in his right arm and facial paralysis, indicate that he may have already suffered one or more strokes in prison, but they are not being treated.

While it is still unclear to us and so many of the victims of the Rwandan regime around the world that Rwanda has been given the honor of hosting CHOGM this year, its presence in Kigali also provides a unique opportunity.

The Prince of Wales and other CHOGM leaders can focus on their shared values ​​and principles and encourage those members who do not uphold those values ​​in practice. This includes Rwanda Kagame. Although Prince Charles is not a political figure, he may seek dialogue behind closed doors or even ask to visit our father.

Rwanda has many friends in CHOGM, both countries and individuals, and we urge the Prince of Wales and all other leaders gathered to not be silent and ask Kagame to grant our father a merciful release now, before it is too late. .

Our father rescued us in 1994. We implore the international community to take this opportunity to rescue him.

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