The family of Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroism during the 1994 Rwandan genocide was depicted in the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, have filed a $400m lawsuit in the US over his alleged abduction and torture by the government in Kigali.
The lawsuit names the government of Rwanda, President Paul Kagame, and other senior officials including the former justice minister and intelligence chief.
“The complaint alleges that the Government of Rwanda and high-ranking Rwandan officials conspired to facilitate and execute an elaborate plot to lure Paul Rusesabagina from his home in Texas to Rwanda, where he would be tortured and illegally detained,” the family and his lawyers said in a statement on Saturday.
Holder of a US green card, as well as Belgian citizenship, Rusesabagina, 67, was tricked into travelling from the US to Burundi in 2020 by the promise of work.
“Instead, he was drugged and taken to Rwanda where President Paul Kagame’s security agents forcibly abducted him, tortured him, and forced him into illegal imprisonment,” according to the statement.
He is now currently serving 25 years in prison on terrorism charges following a trial last year, which his supporters say was riddled with irregularities.
A copy of the lawsuit seen by the AFP news agency indicates that the suit was filed in a Washington, DC court on February 22, and was served on the Rwandan government on March 8.
Rusesabagina’s family and lawyers will hold a news conference in Washington, DC on Wednesday, May 4 to announce further details of the suit, which is seeking at least $400m (380 million euros) in compensation, as well as punitive damages.
The government in Kigali did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the release of Hotel Rwanda, which depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds of people as the manager of a luxury hotel in Kigali during the genocide when ethnic Hutus killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.
American actor Don Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Rusesabagina.
Rusesabagina later used his fame to highlight what he described as human rights violations by the government of Paul Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander who took power after his forces captured Kigali and halted the genocide.
Brought to Rwanda in 2020 and convicted in September 2021 for involvement in a rebel group blamed for deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019, Rusesabagina’s 25-year jail term was upheld by Rwanda’s Court of Appeal earlier this month.
His family said the ruling is effectively a death sentence for the ailing 67-year-old.