2 November 2010

Rwanda: Penal Code Under Review

Kigali — New provisions in a new penal code, incorporating more than 50 areas of legislative intervention will soon come into force, The New Times heard yesterday.

The Minister of Justice; Tharcisse Karugarama told members of the Senate yesterday that the new penal code will incorporate new crimes and legal remedies that were not previously catered for in the decades old Penal Code.

According to the minister, the new law has a provision to tackle web/internet crimes which, he told the Senators, are done in a highly sophisticated manner.

Others will include human trafficking, environment, marital rape, environmental degradation, child prostitution, Genocide ideology, discrimination and sectarianism, piracy and money laundering among others.

"This penal code is new, the changes to it are fundamental and radical. This penal code is more interested in rehabilitating convicted criminals to a life free of crime than throwing them in prison," he said

Senator Agnes Mukabaranga raised her concern over what she referred to as contradictions between what the minister had said and the penalties involved.

"Each crime listed in this penal code has a jail sentence and a fine attached to it. Only a handful of these crimes have fines without jail terms. Where is the element of promoting rehabilitation instead of punishment?" she wondered.

Karugarama explained that the new penal code will give the courts of law three objectives of jail term, fines and alternative social work.

"Our intentions with this Penal Code is to dissuade people from a life of crime, to straighten them into better people.. You will realize that the law seeks to balance both, for instance; where you find a higher jail term, you will find a lower fine and vice versa,"

Senator Antoine Mugesera wondered if the life sentence would be scrapped now that the government was interested more in rehabilitation than punishment.

Karugarama said that the life sentence would not be abolished but instead changes would be levied on when to appeal sentences.

"Life sentence stays, but what changes is that previously, after serving a quarter of one's sentence, you would appeal for release on parole. For life sentence, you would be permitted to apply for parole after ten years, but there are debates to increase it to 15 or 20 years," he said.

After the Senate plenary session, the law will go to the Commission of Political Affairs where it will be reviewed further.

Upon being passed, the Penal Code will have been revised for the first time since it was put in place 33 years ago.

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