A civil lawsuit lawsuit —Habyarimana vs. Kagame— alleges Rwandan President Paul Kagame is guilty of starting the Rwanda Genocide and Congo Wars. Plaintiffs’ counsel say they can prove Kagame ordered the assassination of the Rwandan and Burundian presidents by shooting down their plane, which crashed into the presidential palace in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 6, 1994, triggering the panic and subsequent massacres that came to known as the Rwanda Genocide. The case has been filed in the US by the widows of former presidents Juvenal Habyalimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira. The case, alleges that Kagame is guilty of masterminding the Rwanda Genocide and Congo wars. It demands damages for the assassinated presidents’ widows.
However, Barack Obama’s State Department has filed a “Suggestion of Immunity Submitted by the United States of America,” for the immunity of Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the civil lawsuit Habyarimana vs. Kagame. This is the first time that the U.S State Department has requested immunity in a civil lawsuit for a foreign head of state in U.S courts. U.S presidents can claim some immunity after Clinton v. Jones, a landmark U.S Supreme Court case establishing that a sitting president of the United States has no immunity from civil litigation against him for acts done before taking office and unrelated to the office. The State Department claimed immunity for Kagame’s alleged wrongful acts that occured before he became the president of Rwanda.
In a recent article, “Rwanda: President Kagame confessed he had predecessor’s plane shot down,” written by Theogene Rudasingwa, he said “Paul Kagame himself, with characteristic callousness and much glee, told me that he was responsible for shooting down the plane.”
Habyarimana v. Kagame alleges that Gen. Paul Kagame and nine of his top military commanders and officials are guilty of “wrongful death and murder, crimes against humanity, violation of the rights of life, liberty, and security, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, torture, and continuing conspiracy in furtherance thereof” in Rwanda and its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Plaintiffs allege that many of these crimes, including the assassination of the Rwandan and Burundian presidents, were committed before Kagame succeeded in overthrowing the government and becoming first a government official and then president.
Peter Erlinder and lawyers Kurt Kerns and John P. Zelbst filed the suit on behalf of the widows of Habyalimana and Ntaryamira in the federal District Court of Western Oklahoma in Oklahoma City prior to Kagame’s April 30, 2011, commencement address at Oklahoma Christian University. Kagame failed to answer the complaint within the time allowed, and the court thus declared a default judgment in favour of Madams Habyarimana and Ntaryamira.
Title: Obama Requests Immunity For Kagame re Rwanda Genocide and Congo Wars
By: Ann Garrison
Publication Source: SF Bay View
Date: September 14, 2011
Title: Obama seeking immunity from prosecution for Kagame
Source: The London Evening Post, September 16. 2011
Student researcher: Jessica Belluomini, Sonoma State University
Evaluator name: Elaine Leeder, Sonoma State University