By The Rwandan Lawyer
The crime of corruption harms public services especially justice where the winner becomes the loser because the latter corrupted the court; such an unethical misconduct of legal practitioners entails the public to no longer trust in judicial institutions to the extent that they prefer to resign or resort to mediation in case disputes arise in the daily relationships. The present study intends to analyze the paradoxical misconduct of law enforcers as far as bribes are concerned.
1.1. Rwanda correctional service
CSP Kayumba Innocent, the Director of Nyarugenge Correctional Facility, commonly known as Mageragere Prison has been arrested along with two persons for alleged dishonesty act. CSP Kayumba has been arrested with SP Ntakirutimana and Mutamaniwa Ephrem. CSP Kayumba is detained at Remera RIB station , Ntakirutimana and Mutamaniwa are detained at Kicukiro and Kimihurura respectively.
The Nyarugenge Intermediate Court on Thursday, March 18, upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court to remand three officers of Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) for 30 days.
The three are CSP Innocent Kayumba, the director of Nyarugenge Prison, his deputy SP Eric Ntakirutimana, and Ephraim Mutamaniwa, an intelligence officer at the prison that is commonly known as Mageragere. Kayumba and Ntakirutimana face charges of theft, unauthorized access to a computer or computer system data, and impersonation. Mutamaniwa is accused of two charges; theft and unauthorized access to a computer or computer system data.
None of the accused attended Thursday’s ruling. They are detained at Nyanza Prison in Southern Province. In lodging the appeal, they sought court to rescind the decision by Nyarugenge Primary Court, saying they should be released and be tried while out of detention.
Court however ruled that the appeal by the trio was not grounded, adding that, as prosecution said, there is evidence that once released they might interfere with the ongoing investigations.
According to prosecution, in September last year, Kayumba approached one Olivier Amani, an inmate at Nyarugenge Prison who has IT skills, to help him steal money belonging to Kassem Ayman Mohamed, a British national also incarcerated in Nyarugenge Prison. Mohamed would normally use his visa card to buy medication and food, and leave the card to the person in charge of social affairs at the prison after use.
Prosecution explained that Kayumba ordered the officer to give him the visa card, and took it to Amani to help him withdraw money that was on it.
However, prosecution added, Amani told him that what was possible was to buy commodities online using the money on the card. Subsequently, Kayumba and the co-accused allegedly bought commodities worth Rwf9 million online, using the money of the British inmate, without his knowledge.
The commodities, as explained by prosecution, are said to include alcoholic drinks, mobile phones, and food. However, all the accused have pleaded not guilty of the alleged crimes, saying that they have no IT skills to steal that money, despite having signed off the goods when they were delivered at the prison premises by a local delivery company. The accused will therefore remain in detention until their case in substance begins.
1.2. Investigators, prosecutors and judges
For the first time, since this judicial year (2019/2020), four judges have been jailed over corruption, and evidence is available,” Ruhunga said.
The current Judicial Year was opened in on November 4 2019.
“That was possible because an inspection of the courts discovered it and testimonies were given about it. This got people by surprise because they normally knew that no judge would be jailed,” he said.
He stated that RIB has a statute that allows it to kick out officers (its investigators) once investigation links them to corruption.
The President of Supreme court Faustin Nteziryayo said that the judiciary took a serious note of corruption charges against the judges and investigated into their “role” before deciding on these serious punishments.
Rwanda has a four-layered judicial system which consists of magistrate’s courts, high courts, courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the country.
The decision of the Supreme Court are not be subject to appeal save in terms of petitions for the exercise of the prerogative of mercy or revision of a judicial decision.
The appeals court has been inserted in between the high court and Supreme Court following a the latest reform implemented in 2018 to transform the whole system for the better.
Rwanda’s existing courts structure starts with primary court, intermediate court, high court and Supreme Court as the highest level of justice.
However, Corruption in Rwanda’s judiciary still remains an open secret as corruption allegations are leveled against the judges and several judges dismissed or penalized every year over corruption charges.
in only two years, we (RIB) have dismissed 26 investigators over corruption. None of them was sentenced by the courts [though]; they released them because of judicial process,” he said.
He said that the judicial procedure will remain, but stressed that there is a need to put in place a mechanism to take administrative sanctions against a person suspected of corruption.
“If an investigator removes crucial facts from a suspect’s case, later takes it to prosecution, and the prosecution releases the suspect [because of lack of sufficient evidence], then we monitor the situation and find that he/she took out that evidence… that is enough for us to conclude that the investigator did it because they received a bribe,” he said.
“Therefore, we take disciplinary measures against them,” observed said.
Last year’s Citizen Report Card 2019 by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) indicated that 11 percent of Rwandans said there is corruption in courts, while 2.8 percent of them expressed that there is corruption in Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB).
In Courts, corruption in the judiciary is sometimes a form of a chain that may involve lawyers and registrars before it can get to the judge. “That is a network which is difficult to break because when a legal officer is arrested for corruption, his/her colleagues stand up in their defence saying that they are being wrongly accused.
Rwanda Bribery Index released by Transparency Rwanda which ranked the judiciary as the 5th most bribe infested sector, after TVET, traffic police and RIB. Facing such a deplorable reality in our judicial institutions, litigants are confused as they do not expect a due justice from such organs. Then, they resort to some alternatives. First, as corruption is not publicly granted, some litigants seek information to their neighbors who succeeded to win in previous trials and can access the mediator between parties and judges and then disburse money. Second, they access the judge through their counsels. Third, they afford the judge in charge of the case but their chances are reduced because such a judge even if corrupt is not insured of the innocent character of his/her interaction with the corrupting party. Four, some parties resign and pursue their case and assume to ignore that corruption may arrange them. Last but not least, others disappointed by previous experience do not trust in Rwandan judicial system and resolve to either give up or negotiate with the opposite party.
Even if the Rwanda benefits from a good rank on the list of countries less corrupt, this scourge is there and is unfortunately committed in an indirect manner especially aiming huge amounts. The regrettable concern remains that when law enforcers are involved, all expectations of a transparent justice from the judiciary become an utopia .