Rwandan Pro Bono Clients Win Political Asylum

August 18, 2006

Cleary Gottlieb won political asylum for pro bono clients R.R. and his wife, A.N., who fled Rwanda in November 2005 after allegedly suffering persecution at the hands of the Paul Kagame regime because of R.R.’s political opinion against Kagame’s treatment of ethnic minorities in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. U.S. Immigration Judge Paul Wickham Schmidt granted R.R. asylum and A.N. derivative asylum on August 18 in Arlington.

Cleary Gottlieb began representing R.R. and A.N. after Human Rights First (the referring organization) won their release from the Department of Homeland Security, which had detained them upon arrival in the U.S. The Cleary Gottlieb team filed a substantial document submission on R.R. and A.N.’s behalf, which included a legal brief, affidavits by R.R., A.N., seven witnesses, a country conditions expert and an expert research librarian, the article the client wrote, minutes and videotapes of meetings attended by R.R., as well as numerous reports and articles specifically documenting the oppression of journalists and the persecution of ethnic minorities by the Kagame regime. At the beginning of the trial, the Court encouraged the Department to concede asylum based on the document submission. When the Department did not concede, the court held a two-day trial, with an intervening two-month hiatus, and granted asylum. A key issue, which the Department raised for the first time during opening arguments, was whether our clients, who were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but who held only Rwandan citizenship, were dual nationals who had to prove persecution in both Rwanda and the DRC.