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Eric Nshimiye, Another Rwandan American Facing Trial in Another Rwandan Witch Hunt

ArticlesEric Nshimiye, Another Rwandan American Facing Trial in Another Rwandan Witch Hunt

From Ann Garrison – Black Agenda Report

3 Apr 2024 – The totalitarian state of Rwanda is guilty of many forms of transnational repression, including the lawfare exemplified in the case of Eric Nshimiye.

Rwandan American Eric Tabaro Nshimiye has been arrested by Homeland Security Investigators and charged with immigration fraud for allegedly concealing crimes that he allegedly committed during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The case is sealed in the US District Court of Massachusetts, so I was unable to read the charging documents and thus far have to rely on press releases by ICE and the court . The court says that “the defendant allegedly participated in the killing of Tutsi men, women and children by striking them on the head with a nail-studded club and then hacking them to death with a machete.” The court also accuses him of raping Tutsi women.

Those are horrendous crimes indeed, so before going further, let me say that I believe Eric is another innocent victim of the political witch hunts conducted by the totalitarian Rwandan government, whose president, Paul Kagame, is guiltier than anyone of Rwandan Genocide crime. As Judi Rever , author of In Praise of Blood: Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, wrote on X , “US Homeland Security agents were doing @PaulKagame’s dirty work when they arrested Eric Nshimiye, who has become an opponent of the Rwandan regime because he testified as a defense witness in a high profile trial in the US.”

With regard to that high profile trial, the US Attorney’s Office also charges Eric with “obstruction of justice and with perjury for allegedly offering false testimony in the 2019 Boston trial of his former classmate and now-convicted Rwandan genocide perpetrator Jean Leonard Teganya.”

Jean Leonard is a “convicted genocide perpetrator” in that he was convicted of the same crime Eric is accused of—immigration fraud for concealing genocide crimes. The US does not have jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed in Rwanda, but in order to convict a defendant for lying about said crimes to receive asylum, the court must prove that he was in fact guilty, and thereby indirectly convict him of the crime.

In an absolute absurdity, the court charges that Eric testified on behalf of Jean Leonard in order to conceal his own crimes, but why would Eric step forward and attract attention to himself if he wanted to hide?

Patterns of persecution

This follows a familiar pattern that I have seen play out again and again. First, a Rwandan American—or a Rwandan immigrant in North America or Western Europe—is accused of lying about committing crimes during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide in order to receive asylum. He or she then goes on trial and is found guilty, after which they serve time for immigration fraud in prison. Upon their release, they are deported to Rwanda to stand trial for genocide crime and very likely face life in prison.

In another familiar pattern, any Rwandan immigrant who dares to testify on behalf of an accused Rwandan immigrant will, in a matter of time, find himself accused of the same crimes—immigration fraud and acts of genocide—as Eric has. Eric no doubt knew what great risk he was taking to testify on behalf of Jean Leonard, so it was a courageous act for which he’s paying a high price. 

After serving nearly five years, Jean Leonard is due to be released soon, at which point he will most likely face deportation to Rwanda. Friends and family say that he will die—or be deported—before testifying against Eric if he is asked to do so in exchange for any leniency.

Needless to say, it will take a lot of courage for any Rwandan immigrant to testify on Eric’s behalf, knowing they may well soon find themselves in court facing the same charges.

Who is Eric Nshimiye?

Eric is an electrical engineer who has lived in Lake Township, in the Uniontown, Ohio area, while working for Goodyear Tire and Rubber for more than two decades. Seventy friends and family members, including even his dentist, submitted statements to the Ohio District court to say that he is a devoted husband and father and an upstanding, engaged member of his community and church. Friends and family traveled from Ohio, New York, Texas, and Canada for his detention hearing at a Youngstown court and stood outside with signs reading, “Eric Is a Man of Virtue,” “Eric Is a Man of High Morals,” “Eric Is a Man of Faith,” and more. As reported by the The Canton Repository , “they huddled in prayer, hugged, shook hands and shed a few tears.” They have no doubt seen this pattern play out many times before.

Trial by press

The press love a “rape and murder” headline, and Eric’s case, like so many others, instantly generated sensational news around the world, from Fox News to The Independent , CNN , ABC , Yahoo News , and more. The local Canton Repository, however, ultimately spoke to Eric’s friends and family and published their statements as to his innocence and good character.

The prosecution is obliged to try Eric’s case on its merits, but the jury will no doubt be advantaged by this and all the other sensational press about similar cases and about the Rwandan Genocide itself.

Witness testimony in a totalitarian state

Eric’s case, like Jean Leonard Teganya’s, will rely wholly on witness testimony, some of which has been previewed in the court’s press release. They present a witness pointing to a site where they say Eric killed a 14-year-old boy. They also draw pictures and produce photos of the types of weapons Eric is said to have used to kill his victims. There is no hard evidence, as there was none in the case of Jean Leonard Teganya.

Rwanda is a totalitarian state in which everyone is constantly under surveillance, as described by Anjan Sundaram in his book, Bad News, Last Journalists in a Dictatorship . In an interview with Freedom House, David Himbara, former advisor to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, former chairman of the Rwanda Development Board, and author of Kagame’s Economic Mirage, said: 

Indeed, penetration of the administration to the village level facilitates a comprehensive surveillance system whereby local functionaries are enlisted as watchers. And almost everyone in Rwanda is watched.

“The drive to control every aspect of citizens’ lives is what defines totalitarianism. This is the case in Rwanda. All-encompassing propaganda campaigns are disseminated through ruling party–controlled media, and the regime uses political repression, personality cultism, restriction of speech, and mass surveillance to maintain Kagame’s grip on power. I believe all of these features distinguish Rwanda from mere dictatorship. And in the Rwanda case, use of terror is no longer limited inside its borders. Assassination campaigns have struck in neighboring countries and as far away as South Africa. In this environment, political opponents and human rights activists have no chance whatsoever.”

How can witnesses from such a state be trusted?
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Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She attended Stanford University and is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. In 2014 she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at @AnnGarrison, ann@anngarrison.com.

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Tags: Africa, Dictatorship, Justice, Rwanda

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