In a press conference with his Rwandan counterpart on Thursday, Blinken said he raised serious concerns about human rights during his earlier meeting with Kagame, including the case of Rwandan citizen and US permanent resident Paul Rusesabagina.
Blinken said at a press conference with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta that people should be able to express their views without fear of intimidation, imprisonment, violence and other forms of repression.
Blinken said that they underscored their concerns about the lack of fair trial guarantees provided to him.
We urge the government to address concerns about the legal protections afforded to him in this case and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future, Blinken said later.
Rusesabagina, who inspired the film 'Hotel Rwanda, was convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison in September 2021 by a court in Kigali. The US State DepartmentState Department previously said he was wrongfully detained, according to a statement released in July. Ana se Kanimba, one of Rusesabagina's daughters, told CNN after Blinken's meeting with Rwandan government officials: "We trust that if the US relationship with Rwanda is strong enough to be deserving of financial and trusted cooperation, then it is strong enough to push for the release of our father on humanitarian grounds." In a conversation prior to Blinken's visit to Kigali, Kanimba told CNN that the family has strong concerns about Rusesabagina's health. She said he was believed to have had a stroke three or four months ago, and that he could have another stroke without proper treatment. He's a 68 year old man who's been in prison for two years now under tough conditions. She said he's a cancer survivor. So whatever can happen to him, and they don't have a proper medical care for him, they're not willing to give it over there, and that's why we want the Secretary of State to fully advocate for him, so he can come back home and get proper medical attention, Kanimba said. Paul Kagame is seen as a liberator. But critics say Rwanda is only safe for those who do not follow Rwandan law. Foreign Minister Biruta said Rusesabagina's judicial process had followed Rwandan and international laws. Biruta said we will request our partners to respect Rwanda's sovereignty and Rwanda's laws and institutions. According to Blinken, he had raised issues with Kagame about Rwanda's alleged support for rebel group M 23 and allegations of Rwandan forces being sent into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. The message to both President Kagame and DRC President Tshisekedi has been the same. Any support or cooperation with any armed group in eastern DRC threatens local communities and regional stability. At the press conference, Blinken said that every country in the region must respect the territorial integrity of others. Rwanda has denied previously allegations by Congo's government that it supports M 23 and that it has sent soldiers over the border, according to previous CNN reporting. M 23 has denied it receives Rwandan support. Blinken said that Tshisekedi and Kagame have agreed to engage in direct talks with each other and both leaders are ready to restart talks with armed groups. Later on Thursday, Blinken participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Kigali Genocide Memorial to commemorate the victims of the 1994 genocide.