Paul Rusesabagina acquired a Rwandan passport in 2004, which he applied for after he reported his initial passport lost. The new passport, number PC 009914, was set to expire on 29 July 2009.
Rusesabagina, 66, has been arguing before courts of law that as a Belgian citizen he cannot be tried in Rwandan courts.
Documents acquired by KT Press show that Rusesabagina completed all the required steps to acquire a passport, and even indicated “Belgian” as an additional nationality on question number 17 in the application form, which asks “What other nationality do you possess”.
This revelation contradicts Rusesabagina’s insistence that he is not a Rwandan citizen, when during the first day of trial on terror-related charges he told the court that he surrendered his Rwandan passport and national ID to Belgian authorities in 1996, and became a ‘stateless orphan’.
On Friday February 26, the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes ruled against Rusesabagina’s objections, affirming that the court had jurisdiction to try even non-Rwandans as long as they committed the suspected crimes on Rwandan territory.
Conspicuously, Rusesabagina and his lawyers Gatera Gashabana and Felix Rudakemwa, did not raise the issue of nationality again throughout the proceedings, likely calculating that it could backfire given the immigration records submitted in the court system last week, which are accessible to all parties involved, including defence lawyers and their clients.
One of the immigration documents shows that on 21 July 2004 Rusesabagina reported his passport lost, in a loss declaration certificate signed by a Rwandan prosecutor, who confirms that Rusesabagina “son of Rupfure Thomas and Nyirampara Keziya, born in 1954 in Murama, Gitarama, lost his passport No. A003469”, with a copy of the lost passport attached. The passport in question was issued on 19 September 1996, and set to expire on 19 September 2001.
Rusesabagina had told the court that he returned to Rwanda twice, in 2003 and 2004, traveling on a Belgian passport with Rwandan visas issued by the Rwandan embassy in Brussels. He however did not reveal that he had actively pursued a replacement for his lost Rwandan passport.
On his 26 July 2004, application letter to the Immigration directorate, Rusesabagina writes: “I am writing this letter to request a new passport because the passport I had, no. A003469, got lost. I have attached a certificate of loss from the Prosecution. Thanking you in advance as I wait for your feedback.”
Rusesabagina also went on to pay the required passport fee of Rwf50,000 to the Rwanda Revenue Authority, for which he was issued a receipt numbered 1309929.
The application is supported by a document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed to the Directorate of Immigration, requesting that Rusesabagina be facilitated to acquire a new passport. The letter, signed by the acting Secretary General at the time, indicates that Rusesabagina “is in Kigali and he wishes to return to his place of residence with the new passport”.
Rusesabagina and his co-accused will return to court on Friday, 5 March 2021.