Rusesabagina and Sankara granted presidential pardon

Paul Rusesabagina and Nsabimana Callixte alias ‘Sankara’ who have been serving their sentence over terrorism charges, have received the prerogative of mercy after requesting pardon to the President of the Republic.

The Statement released by Rwanda’s Ministry of Justice (MINJUST) indicates that their pardon was approved by the cabinet meeting that convened on Friday 24th March 2023.

They have been commuted by Presidential Order, after consideration of their requests for clemency.

Rusesabagina and Nsabimana Callixte have been granted collective commutation along with 18 members of MRCD-FLN convicted alongside their leaders Paul Rusesabagina.

Under Rwandan law, commutation of sentence does not extinguish the underlying conviction. If any individual benefitting from early release repeats offences of a similar nature, the commutation can be revoked and the remainder of the prison sentence will be served, in accordance with the conditions specified in the Presidential Order.

According to MINJUST, other penalties imposed by the Court, such as compensation owed to victims, are not affected by this commutation ‘and thus remain in force. The letters requesting clemency are being released in the public interest’.

The Ministry of Justice has also revealed that more 358 individuals convicted of various offences were also granted collective commutation.

On 20th September 2021, the High Court Special Chamber for International and Cross-border crimes convicted the former President of MRCD-FLN terrorist group, Paul Rusesabagina of terrorism charges and handed him 25-year jail term.

He had been arrested in August 2020 while his trial began on 20th January 2021.

Rusesabagina and co-accused individuals including Nsabimana Callixte alias ’Sankara’ (former spokesperson of MRCD-FLN terror group) faced charges including the formation of an irregular armed group, membership of a terrorist group, financing terrorism, murder as an act of terrorism, arson as an act of terrorism, attempted murder as an act of terrorism, and assault and battery as an act of terrorism.

The crimes were committed since 2018 when MRDC/FLN combatants plotted attacks to Rwanda which claimed lives of nine innocent residents in the Southern Province.

They left many others gravely injured, and caused significant material and economic damage in South-West Rwanda.

Apart from Rusesabagina, Sankara, the former spokesperson for the terror group was sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

Sankara was later handed 15-year sentence after pleading guilty and appealing for leniency.

In March 2023, Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Monday said there were discussions about “resolving” the fate of Paul Rusesabagina that signaled his possible release.