The New Times (Kigali)

6 January 2014

Rwanda: Interview - Empower African Court As Alternative to ICC - Rugege

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The rulings might be passed expeditiously based on the figures you provided but the execution of these rulings remains rather sluggish, do you share the same view?

I agree with that; the pace of executing judgments is not at the same level as the pace at which rulings are delivered, but, to start with, that is not within our jurisdiction and I cannot give you a concrete answer.

However, what I can say is that we sometimes have problems with court bailiffs who are supposed to enforce the judgments, especially in civil cases.

Those who have lost a case always try to delay the execution of the judgment. They will appeal at every level, and even after they have exhausted the appeal process, they will still try to have the case reviewed.

Addressing this requires improvement on the efficiency of the bailiffs. I understand a professional body of the bailiffs is in the pipeline, which will help address such issues. We shall also devise means of closing loopholes that people use to stay in courts indefinitely.

The judiciary continues to be cited among the institutions with high corruption incidences, including in reports by the Ombudsman's Office among other corruption watchdogs. What are you doing to reverse the trend?

These studies have been conducted by people who are independent and we cannot say much about them but what I can say is that, we are trying our best to fight corruption. Sometimes, of course, it is a question of perception and the judiciary is very vulnerable in this case because few people who lose court cases accept that they were fairly judged. Some of the people come up with allegations that the judge was bribed when it is not the case.

But that is not to say that corruption is non-existent in the judiciary; however, the incidence is really quite minimal, especially when you compare what the situation was before the reforms.

We have played our role in ensuring that discipline is upheld among our judges and we are also always open to complaints from the litigants or members of the public.

We normally follow up on all those complaints, and if investigations find a prima facie case, the matter is brought before the High Council which conducts a hearing in which the concerned party is questioned and an appropriate decision taken. Based on this process, over 40 judges and registrars have since 2005 been dismissed or reprimanded over corruption-related tendencies.

Is it true that judges, especially at the lower level, are poorly paid which makes them susceptible to corruption?

That is wrong. Low pay cannot, under any circumstances, justify corruption. It is not those that are poorly remunerated that are the most corrupt. Otherwise how do you justify the bank managers or all those people with really good salaries who get involved in corruption? What is important, and what we are trying to do is to tell them that we all get from a small basket and the demands of the Judiciary should not compromise other sectors like health, and education among others.

Nevertheless, we have tried to improve the conditions of judges and the salaries have drastically increased, with the lowest paid getting over Rwf200, 000 up from 40,000 in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Genocide.

There is a perception that the Judiciary in this country is not independent, what do you have to say about that?

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