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From ‘Hotel Rwanda’ to ‘The Slaughter House’

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Paul Rusesabagina walks in handcuffs to a courtroom in Kigali, Rwanda, Feb. 26.



Photo:

clement uwiringiyimana/Reuters

The U.S. and the European Union have reacted with justified outrage at the diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 to deliver a dissident journalist to the security services of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. But a similar action in Rwanda has resulted in nothing but disgraceful silence from the Trump and Biden administrations, even though the victim in this case is a permanent U.S. resident and a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The U.S. government hasn’t put an ounce of pressure on Rwanda to release

Paul Rusesabagina,

the hero of the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” who has been held bound, gagged and blindfolded in a prison known as “the slaughter house,” where torture is customarily inflicted on enemies of dictator

Paul Kagame.

Mr. Rusesabagina’s family says he has been denied food, medicine and even adequate water, likely in the hope he will die in his cell and save the Rwandan government the trouble of convicting him.

The success of “Hotel Rwanda,” which depicted Mr. Rusesabagina’s acts of heroism in shielding more than 1,200 people within the Hotel des Mille Collines during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, catapulted him into the public eye. He felt a moral obligation to use his fame to draw attention to what nonexiled Rwandans could not—his country’s slide into totalitarian rule under the notoriously thin-skinned Mr. Kagame.

On Aug. 27, 2020, Mr. Rusesabagina boarded a charter jet in Dubai that he thought was taking him to a speaking engagement in Burundi. But his traveling companion,

Constantin Niyomwungere,

had tricked him into boarding a chartered flight to the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Since landing, Mr. Rusesabagina has been the subject of a continuing sham trial for meritless terrorism charges.

The EU Parliament and the Belgian government condemned the kidnapping, but the U.S. has let this travesty happen with the same nonchalance that allowed Saudi Arabia to get away with the murder of journalist

Jamal Khashoggi.

Like the Saudi leadership, Mr. Kagame has a close diplomatic relationship with the U.S. He is routinely feted in venues like Aspen, Colo., and Davos, Switzerland, by billionaire investors who see him as a leader who might be heavy-handed but has brought economic stability to a once-impoverished nation.

Considering the millions in foreign aid the U.S. pours into Rwanda, American taxpayers are again underwriting a foreign power’s ability to harass, intimidate and abduct its critics. That this has happened to a renowned humanitarian like Mr. Rusesabagina is an outrage that can’t be allowed to stand without a vociferous response.

President Biden needs to deliver a personal message to Mr. Kagame: Hand over Mr. Rusesabagina to an international venue, such as the United Nations International Court of Justice in the Hague, where he can get a fair trial. America’s double standard on kidnappings can no longer be countenanced.

Mr. Pearson is screenwriter of “Hotel Rwanda.” Mr. Zoellner is co-author of Mr. Rusesabagina’s memoir, “An Ordinary Man.”

Main Street: Unlike Hollywood’s woke, at least its Communists could make good movies. Images: Everett Collection/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the June 16, 2021, print edition as ‘‘Hotel Rwanda’ to ‘The Slaughter House’.’

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