Past Cases

Paul Rusesabagina, et al. v. The Republic of Rwanda, et al.

Status Past Case

Practice area Human Rights

Court U.S. District Court, District of Columbia

Case number 1:22-cv-00469-RJL


On February 22, 2022, Cohen Milstein and co-counsel, The Perles Law Group and Eaves Law Firm, filed a human rights lawsuit before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Paul Rusesabagina and his family against the Republic of Rwanda, the President of Rwanda and other members of Rwandan government and military.

Plaintiffs brought suit against the Republic of Rwanda under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) against Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda; Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, the Secretary General of Rwandan National Intelligence and Security Services (“NISS”); Colonel Jeannot Ruhunga, the head of the Rwandan Investigative Bureau (“RIB”); and Johnston Busingye, then-Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, under the Torture Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”), for severe personal injuries, torture, fear of imminent death, and other irreparable harm suffered at the hand of Defendants. Certain Plaintiffs are aliens who bring claims for torts in violation of the law of nations under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”).

On March 16, 2023, the court held that some of Plaintiffs’ claims could move forward against the three Rwandan officials. A week later, after negotiations with the White House, Rwanda commuted Rusesabagina’s sentence. On March 29, 2023, after two-and-a-half years in captivity, he returned home to the United States. Having succeeded in gaining Rusesabagina’s freedom, Plaintiffs moved on March 31, 2023 to dismiss their complaint with prejudice.

The Transnational Litigation blog provides a thorough look at the case and the complex issues involved, including foreign sovereign immunity, head of state immunity, personal jurisdiction, service of process, and the act of state doctrine.

Case Background

Mr. Rusesabagina, a permanent legal resident of San Antonio, Texas for the past two decades, is an award-winning humanitarian and political activist, originally born in Southern Rwanda. Mr. Rusesabagina’s awards include the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by George W. Bush in 2005.

An outspoken critic of the current political regime in Rwanda and its abuses against the Rwandan people, Mr. Rusesabagina, is, perhaps, best known for being the hotel manager of Hôtel des Mille Collines, a luxury hotel a part of the Sabena Hotels in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali in 1994 – the same year of the infamous Rwandan genocide. As violence swept through Rwanda, Mr. Rusesabagina converted the hotel into a safe haven to 1,268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus—who were sure to be horrifically murdered at the time—as they fled the Interhamwe militias. As the Rwandan genocide raged outside the hotel’s gates, no one in the hotel was injured or killed. Mr. Rusesabagina’s story inspired the Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, which was met with international acclaim. Paul Rusesabagina is recognized, worldwide, for his heroism during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Later, after the genocide, Mr. Rusesabagina founded the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation to initially support the education of young girls and women who were genocide survivors and then to generate support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

This action arises from the deliberate and intentional campaign by Rwandan government officials, employees, and agents, to track, harass, and ultimately lure Paul Rusesabagina, under false pretenses, from his home in Texas to Dubai where he was kidnapped on August 26, 2020.

Specifically, since the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Mr. Rusesabagina was an ardent critic of President Paul Kagame’s dictatorial policies and his regime’s ongoing human rights abuses in Rwanda and internationally overseas. Among other things, he has publicly alleged that the Kagame regime committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially since 1996 in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Rusesabagina worked to highlight these findings in the United Nations’ Mapping Report of the “Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993 – 2003,” published in 2010. Mr. Rusesabagina’s criticisms are regularly echoed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, and the U.S. State Department, among others.

Plaintiffs allege that since 1994 the Rwandan military has made numerous attempts to harass, persecute and assassinate Mr. Rusesabagina, leading him to seek political asylum in Belgium in 1996 and then again, after the release of Hotel Rwanda in 2004, to the United States in 2009.

The Rwandan government openly admitted that it planned an elaborate operation inside the United States to track Paul Rusesabagina well before 2020 and use its agents to trick him into traveling—with false promises of contractual work in Burundi—from his home in the United States to Rwanda. In Dubai, members of the conspiracy lied to Mr. Rusesabagina and led him to believe the final leg of the flight would take him to Burundi. 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. In Rwanda he has been sentenced to 25 years, essentially life imprisonment, and deprived of his necessary medication and treatment as a cancer survivor. The kidnapping was universally condemned by neutral human rights nonprofit groups world-wide.

The name of the case is: Paul Rusesabagina, et al. v. The Republic of Rwanda, et al., Case No. 1:22-cv-00469-RJL, United States District Court for the District of Columbia