Rwanda: Ins and outs of the theft allegations against the boss of Mageragere Prison

By The Rwandan Lawyer

Introduction

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 (Mageragere), 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. The question dealt hereby  consists in establishing the modalities in which the suspects accessed the victim’s account.

1. Facts

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.

2. Skills used

Further to the challenge encountered by inmates to access money which was sent to then prisoner coordinator, named Nshimiye Eric, convened inmates who were skilled in software and programs to meet in a bid to constitute a program which may facilitate them to solve that issue. Then the IT expert detained there who had been designated by his fellows met the director of the Mageragere Prison together with ICT officers of the prison and they agreed on the new system and was successful. Later on, the CSP Kayumba director of the prison started convening the inmate expert in IT to help him on electronic issues and advising him to give up delinquency. He finally asked him whether he is able to electronically withdraw money from an account of another person, he replied that it was not feasible. With time he succeeded to convince him to hack accounts to get funds as he was aware that he had done that by the past. He then equipped him with all necessary materials namely a laptop connected with WIFI; he installed the programs susceptible to enable the hacking operation; he gave him 9 master cards belonging to different inmates among which 5 master cards from the British citizen and he succeeded to access details on those cards in terms of amounts deposited; the names of the owner; account numbers, etc. they found out that he possessed about a million of dollars. They failed to transfer the amount from the account of that foreign inmate to the account of the director of the prison but succeeded to use that money for shopping.

3. Analysis: infringement of national and international laws on rights of prisoners

As the prison authorities retain from people detained different items such as phones, pennies; and other materials they did not leave at home. As prisoners are in a weakest position, authorities seize this opportunity to exploit it by abusing their property rights. Indeed, according to article 31 of the law n° 38/2006 of 25/09/2006 establishing and determining the organization of the national prisons service. The amount the prisoner receives from his/her earnings shall be deposited on the appropriate prisoners Bank Account and he/she shall be informed of the amount deposited if he/she requests so. He/she may purchase items needed that are acceptable in prison from such amount and allow his/her family to use it. In case of release from prison, he/she shall be given the money deposited. In case he/she dies, such an amount shall be given to his/her heir. Besides, article 29 provides that Prisoners shall have the right to perform any activity in relation to their professional skills. Those who do not have professional skills shall, if possible, be given training to enable them to have any work to perform. Such work performed shall be in line with their rehabilitation and they shall be entitled to a small amount from which they have earned in accordance with Article 40 of this law in order to motivate them. They shall also perform activities to improve their living conditions in prison. In the same context, article 40 of the same legal text reads that the prisoner may be requested or request to perform a work but cannot be forced to perform it. The prisoner shall perform work but cannot be forced to work beyond his/her capacity or perform works that degrade him or her. The prisoner who performs an income generating activity shall be given an amount equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the total amount of his/her earnings.  The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners recommend the same provisions to protect rights to private property of inmates especially with their rule7 according to whichNo person shall be received in a prison without a valid commitment order. The following information shall be entered in the prisoner file management system upon admission of every prisoner: precise information enabling determination of his or her unique identity, respecting his or her self-perceived gender; the reasons for his or her commitment and the responsible authority, in addition to the date, time and place of arrest; the day and hour of his or her admission and release as well as of any transfer; any visible injuries and complaints about prior ill-treatment; an inventory of his or her personal property; the names of his or her family members, including, where applicable, his or her children, the children’s ages, location and custody or guardianship status; emergency contact details and information on the prisoner’s next of kin. More specifically, the rule 67 of the same international text determines that all money, valuables, clothing and other effects belonging to a prisoner which he or she is not allowed to retain under the prison regulations shall on his or her admission to the prison be placed in safe custody. An inventory thereof shall be signed by the prisoner. Steps shall be taken to keep them in good condition. On the release of the prisoner, all such articles and money shall be returned to him or her except in so far as he or she has been authorized to spend money or send any such property out of the prison, or it has been found necessary on hygienic grounds to destroy any article of clothing. The prisoner shall sign a receipt for the articles and money returned to him or her. Any money or effects received for a prisoner from outside shall be treated in the same way. If a prisoner brings in any drugs or medicine, the physician or other qualified health-care professionals shall decide what use shall be made of them.

Conclusion 

The violations of fundamental rights of Rwandan citizens are current in Rwanda and are worsened for inmates who are considered as citizens of the second or third zone. Apart from the overcrowded premises, rights to health care, sufficient food and other prerogatives are like a utopia given that often some sensitive case lead to disappearance. The right to private property of Rwandan inmates are daily abused and this case was unfolded thanks to the citizenship of the prisoner and foreign pressure, if not national inmates suffer in silence having none to address claims to. The Almighty remains the only guardian.

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