(New York, NY) — PEN America is alarmed by recent reports regarding the trial and mistreatment in detention of Paul Rusesabagina, author of An Ordinary Man, his memoir of his experience as manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines during the Rwandan genocide, as depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda.

A longtime critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina was reportedly lured onto a private jet in Dubai in August 2020 that was secretly bound for Kigali, where he now faces trial on charges of murder, arson, and terrorism. Recent statements from his family allege he faces grave mistreatment in prison, and has been deprived of access to food and even water. A preliminary report from experts monitoring his trial concluded: “[I]t is doubtful that the court is prepared to offer the guarantees of fairness that these proceedings require in order to be credible if they are to result, as seems predetermined, in a conviction which may carry a sentence of life imprisonment.” 

Summer Lopez, PEN America’s senior director of free expression programs, said the following:

“The Rwandan government has a sordid track record of forcibly, and often violently, silencing its critics, including through extraterritorial attacks on dissidents. Particularly against that backdrop, the alleged kidnapping of Rusesabagina, his reported brutal mistreatment in detention, and the clearly politicized nature of a trial that may well lead to a life sentence are gravely alarming. It is unacceptable to continue allowing Kagame to get away with such abuses. The U.S. government and the broader international community must speak out firmly and loudly to demand the Rwandan government uphold its international commitments to human rights standards and the requirements of due process, and ensure Rusesabagina’s safety. Those who attempt to speak the truth in Rwanda—or even beyond its borders—will never be safe otherwise.”