By The Rwandan Lawyer
In Rwanda, there is yearly practice of opening the judicial year by the President of the Republic; a sort of ceremony during which the latter addresses remarks relating to the functioning of courts in general and to judicial issues which prevail. The present analysis tackles the content of the speech of the head of state targeting some issues arising from its involvements.
Kagame made the remarks today as he presided over the launch of the Judicial Year 2021/2022.The President commended the judicial sector for tapping into the advantage of technology to continue handling court cases during trying times of COVID-19 pandemic. He explained that the performance of judges reflects their advancing knowledge and prowess which capacitated them to deliver on efficiency. Despite achieved milestone, more efforts are still needed to fight against crimes in the society. Kagame has observed that it requires concerted efforts to win the fight.“ Let us talk about cyber-crimes increasing gradually and becoming sophisticated yet there is a way to reduce them. We should concert efforts and tackle these crimes together,” he said. Kagame highlighted that the Government encourages Rwandans to embrace technology especially using mobile phones in trade and cashless transactions. He stated that that strict measures are needed to protect unwitting members of the public against scammers.“It is paramount to tighten measures to protect Rwandans particularly the ones with inadequate digital skills from falling easy preys to scammers and other fraudsters,” he noted. Sexual Abuse and Gender Based Violence is among other alarming problems in Rwandan community. Kagame called for tougher punishment to those who rape women and children and impregnate teenage girls.
“We should put all our efforts into fighting these crimes and ensure that they reduce significantly. The perpetrators of these crimes, their accomplices and those that protect them should face tough punishment to the extent that it might discourage anyone with similar intentions,” he said. The annual report of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) released in 2020 shows that 48 809 women were victims of SGBV between 2016 and 2019.Figures from the Ministry of Health also indicate that 17 849 teenagers were impregnated in 2016. The number was 17 337 in 2017, 19 832 in 2018 and 15 656 between January and August 2019.Kagame has urged stakeholders of the justice sector to thoroughly handle court cases in accordance with laws. He also cautioned judges against bribery to promote professionalism and handle cases based on proven evidences. “ People go to courts hoping that the judges will listen to them, make judgments based on the evidence presented, and as provided for by the law. But we hear some in the justice sector still ask for bribes. This is unacceptable and must be stopped,” he said.
Analysis: judiciary between the devil and the deep sea
The judicial system is daily encountering a series of impediments so that its ideal mission and vision cannot be achieved and loses confidence and trust from the citizens seeking justice.
Issue of independence of the Rwandan judiciary
In general, and in accordance with the separation of powers, judiciary, legislative and executive are independent respectively and the practice of checks and balance allows the collaboration and complementarity between them. The issue which entails dysfunctions of the Rwandan judicial organs and officials is that the executive power abuses this checks and balance and seem prevailing over the other powers to the extent that their members are appointed by the government and receive orders from it. This is legally enshrined with the provisions of the criminal procedure whereby the executive is entitled to suspend and even cancel judicial decisions but also it is evidenced by caselaws where the investigation and prosecution organs violate rules of good administration of justice arbitrarily arresting people or abducting them before sending them to courts which receive injunctions to maintain them in provisional detention although conditions and guaranties to be released are fulfilled and to unjustly convict them and sentence them to heavy penalties.
The cases of Rusesabagina who was abducted by Rwanda Investigation Bureau as confessed by the former minister of justice is the latest illustration without excluding others like the case of Deo Mushaidi who was captured abroad and forcibly subjugated to the judicial institutions compelled to jail him for life.
Issue of corruption
In general, Rwandan magistrates are corrupted according to different reports of transparency international Rwanda. On one side, litigants whose case does not imply political issues i.e. where the state has not any interest or concern offer money or other expensive assets to win the trial and then prevails it is the law of the strongest not to say of the richest so that innocent people are condemned;people lose their property in the profit of malicious crooks. On the other side, cases where the state is more or less concerned are tried under instructions so that the fate of the suspect is already known from the public.Thus, all rwandans expect life imprisonment from the case files of Rusesabagina Paul and around 20-25 years for Karasira Aimable and Idamange Yvonne.
Issue of lack of fair trial
Factors underlying the violation of principles of good administration of justice established by different international and regional instruments such as the universal declaration of human rights of 1948; the international covenant on civil and political rights of 1966; African charter on human and peoples’ rights of 1981 to which Rwandan is a party are numerous. First, accustomed with receiving instructions to handle cases bordering on politics, Rwandan judges merely ignore rules of fair trial and content themselves to reject all objections raised by suspects already condemned whereby the proceedings are just formalities to lure the public and international community. Besides, given conditions of staff recruitment in Rwanda where dominate nepotism, corruption and favoritism, people retained as magistrates are intellectually weak to the extent that they ignore those universal principles. Furthermore, judges envisage to march other case files which do not involve politics, corruption does not fit with good administration of justice given that those unworthy judges intend to practice injustice where the where the winner will be ousted by the loser provided the latter has paid a lot of bundles.
Lastly, many people were complaining about judges who released crooks who had extorted large sums from them; requests for the precautionary seizure of property or sums of consignment money which were rejected by the judges allowing the defendants to conceal them and to leave the country escaping the execution of judgments against these property; cases of Rusizi women who are jailed while crooks who took away their monies are free in a perfect impunity; case of pastors Rugema Gad and Rugwizangoga are eloquent.In a nutshell, the rwandan justice is part of all what is badly functioning in Rwanda. Who will deliver us from injustice?