Speech delivered by Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
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Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Let me start by reassuring you that the High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell is well aware of the case of Mr [Paul] Rusesabagina and that the European External Action Service and the European Union Delegation in Kigali are in close contact with the Belgian authorities and the Embassies of Belgium and the US in Rwanda.
Our Ambassador has discussed Mr Rusesabagina’s court case with the highest authorities, including President [of Rwanda, Paul] Kagame, the Minister of Foreign Affairs [Vincent Biruta], and the Minister of Justice [Johnston Busingye]. He has emphasised our expectation that Mr Rusesabagina is provided with appropriate legal counsel and medical care, and that conditions prevail for the rule of law, a fair trial and due process. The EU Delegation has already formally requested the authorities to facilitate access to the Court and received confirmation that it can follow the Court sittings, to be opened at the High Court on 17 February.
I would also like to inform you on the situation of Mr Rusesabagina in Rwanda. Since his arrival, the Belgian authorities have provided consular assistance, and have seen him and talked to him regularly. And we have been informed that the US Embassy was able to have regular visits and contacts with him.
Mr Rusesabagina has been and is in regular medical care, he receives daily medication. We have received reassurances that another medical examination on 9 February in Kigali found him in good condition. The authorities are ready to open a direct channel between Belgian and US doctors and the Rwandan doctors.
Upon his arrival, Mr Rusesabagina has been afforded free legal counsel, provided through the Rwanda Bar Association. Later, he chose to replace these lawyers by another Rwandan lawyer of high international reputation. He has also appointed other international lawyers to assist in his defence. However, these would need to be authorised by the Rwanda Bar Association, in order to be able to appear before a Rwandan Court.
There have been issues with access to documents of the prosecution and of his lawyer, slowing down the preparation of his defence. Alerted to these issues, the Rwandan authorities have promised to take action to enable him preparing for the process properly.
We will continue to engage with the Rwandan authorities on human rights issues, good governance and the rule of law in our regular political dialogue, as we do with all our partners. Under the 11th European Development Fund, governance is a focal area of our cooperation, and will continue to be in the new programming.
Exchanges have started with authorities to work with law enforcement authorities on human rights-sensitive approaches.
Honourable members, human rights have to be respected universally and at all times, including for prisoners and those who are accused. We are confident that Rwanda will bring about fair, credible and independent justice for Mr Rusesabagina.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-201894