March 24, 2023

Statement from Congressman Castro on the Expected Release of Paul Rusesabagina, Hero of the Rwandan Genocide and Political Prisoner

SAN ANTONIO – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) released the following statement after the government of Rwanda confirmed it plans to release Paul Rusesabagina, a permanent resident of San Antonio who has been wrongfully detained in Rwanda since August 2020:

“Paul Rusesabagina is a hero, and his unjust detention was a stain on Rwanda’s progress toward a peaceful and stable future. Together with his family, friends, and supporters around the world, I am overjoyed to hear the news of his impending release and look forward to his safe return.”

Congressman Castro has worked to secure Paul Rusesabagina’s release for several years. In December 2020, he joined three dozen members of Congress in a letter to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda calling for Rusesabagina’s safe return to the United States. The following year, he was part of a bipartisan coalition of members who wrote to Secretary Antony Blinken to raise ongoing concerns with Rusesabagina’s detention. In early 2022, Castro published an opinion piece in the San Antonio Express-News to raise awareness about Rusesabagina’s unjust detention and treatment. Later that same year, he led the U.S. House of Representatives in passing a bipartisan resolution (co-authored with Congresswoman Young Kim of California) calling on the government of Rwanda to release Rusesabagina on humanitarian grounds.

Paul Rusesabagina, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is credited with saving more than 1,200 lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In the aftermath of the genocide, Rusesabagina and his family received asylum in Belgium and later moved to San Antonio. Rusesabagina’s story received worldwide attention after he was portrayed by Don Cheadle in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. In recent years, Rusesabagina received international attention for his criticism of human rights abuses and corruption by the Rwandan government.

In August 2020, Rusesabagina was extrajudicially transferred from Texas to Rwanda by way of the United Arab Emirates and arrested on politically motivated charges. Rusesabagina, a cancer survivor, was reportedly subject to torture in detention. In 2021, a Rwandan court found Rusesabagina guilty on terrorism-related charges and sentenced him to 25 years in prison in a trial that the European Union described as “marred by numerous violations of his fair trial rights.” In May 2022, the U.S. Department of State announced their determination that Mr. Rusesabagina was “wrongfully detained,” noting their “determination took into account the totality of the circumstances, notably the lack of fair trial guarantees during his trial.”