Rwanda: COVID-19 - Prosecution to Release Detainees

Prosecutor-General Aimable Havugayiremye has announced a process that will see the release of a number of detainees held in different police stations all over the country.

In his letter to prosecutors dated April 1, Havugayiremye explained that a screening exercise will be carried out by a joint team comprised of Rwanda National Police, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA).

The exercise will determine who to benefit from this depending on a number of circumstances, including the charges the suspect faces.

According to the chief prosecutor, those charged with serious crimes or recidivists will not benefit from this directive.

Outlined categories

To ease the process, Havugiyaremye broke down the specifics of what the teams must base on to determine who gets released into three categories.

In Category 1, the prosecutors are requested to register detainees who are accused of serious offenses such as murder, human trafficking, corruption, defilement, use and distribution of drugs and repeat offenders.

This particular category does not qualify for release and will wait for trial when the courts re-open.

In Category 2, the team is expected to compile a list of those who are legible to pay fine and be released without necessarily being produced in court.

As for Category 3, the team will have a list of suspects who can be released on a conditional basis. This means that their cases can proceed after the courts open but the suspects will be tried while not under detention.

This category includes women in detention with babies, teenagers and those who can be released on police bond, upon establishing that they pose no danger to society.

This category also includes suspects whose detention is centred on family disputes and other disagreements that can be fixed by reconciliation with the wronged providing grounds for release. The case will, however, remain open.

Category three will also include suspects whose files lack sufficient evidence.

Decongestion purposes

The Spokesman of NPPA Faustin Nkusi told The New Times in a telephone interview that the decision to release some of the detainees is motivated by NPPA's decision to decongest detention centers during the coronavirus crisis.

"The nation may be on lockdown but that does not stop some people from committing crimes. Unfortunately, the numbers continue to rise. What we are doing is to make sure that the people who remain in these facilities are those who pose a danger to society," he said.

Government on March 21 announced a two-week lockdown of all but essential activities and this lockdown has been extended to another two weeks, until April 19.

Among activities that were affected by the lockdown, meaning that suspects cannot be produced before courts so that they can either be remanded in prison facilities or granted bail.

While the timeline of when these suspects will be released has not been set, the NPPA has given Friday, April 2 as the deadline when all the lists must be complete.

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