11 October 2018

Rwanda: Ombudsman to Name and Shame All Corruption Convicts

A comprehensive list of names and case details of those convicted of corruption will henceforth appear in the media as part of the government's plan to discourage the masses against getting involved with the vice, the Ombudsman has said.

Previously, only convicts of bribery involving small amounts would be named and shamed but now the new law allows for inclusion of the so-called 'Big Fish' because embezzlement is now classified as corruption.

Addressing the media yesterday, Anastase Murekezi said that while his office faces challenges related to understaffing and heavy case logs, combined efforts between his office and other institutions like the Ministry of Justice was making it possible to review all the cases as they come in.

"The issue of case backlog has been a challenge for many years. This dates to as back as 2013 when we were added the mandate of looking into cases whose defendants were not fully satisfied with the appeals court final decision," he said.

While the Ombudsman's office could review at least 1000 cases annually, its new mandate saw the cases increase bringing the backlog to as high as 1900 cases per year.

"This makes us not able to give answers fast enough but we started working extra hours and we talked to the Ministry of Justice which helped us with some staff and this backlog will be cleared in a period of two months. That means no case after that will be going beyond three months," he said.

New law

In June this year, a new law came into force, stipulating that a complainant can only petition the Ombudsman's Office after exhausting all legal avenues up to the Supreme Court.

Deputy Ombudsman Odette Yankurije told journalists recently that while those were the conditions in the previous law, where a complainant had to write to the Ombudsman if they felt the verdict was unjust, the current law requires the complainant to instead write to a higher court than the one that delivered the judgment

"For instance, if a case was tried by the Primary Court, the complainant is required to petition the Intermediary Court. If the case was tried by the Military Court, they write to the Military High Court," she said.

The president of the court that has been petitioned is required to review the case for any injustices and, if any are found, they write to the Supreme Court which would determine which court should try the case.

Appeal

Murekezi also weighed in on the issue of bail. He appealed for courts to practice restraint while releasing those accused of corruption, because they pose a flight risk.

"Of course there is the window of appeal but when it comes to corruption, I think that these appeal cases should be scrutinised more because the suspects can flee," he said.

"From July 2017 to June 2018, we reviewed 1,900 cases and 6 per cent of these were found to have been unfairly handled," he added.

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