For more than a decade, the United States had a problem: three Rwandan men, sitting in jail in Virginia, who had stood accused of brutally murdering tourists in Africa—but now had a chance of winning release onto American streets.
The three had been rounded up after a bloody 1999 attack that made headlines across three continents, in which two Americans and six other Western tourists on a gorilla-watching visit to the Ugandan rainforest were killed with machetes and axes. The crime was so horrific that U.S. prosecutors charged the men under terrorism statutes, extracted them from Rwanda and then took the rare step of demanding the federal death penalty.
But in 2006, the prosecution went off the rails: A judge in Washington ruled the men’s confessions were obtained through torture in Rwandan detention centers, and the case was dropped. The men fell into immigration purgatory, fighting their return to Rwanda out of fear they’d be mistreated by the government there but lacking the right to stay in the U.S.