Rwanda: COVID-19 - Prosecution Sends 1,182 Suspects Home

The Rwanda Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) on Wednesday completed the process of releasing 1,182 suspects from different police stations all over the country.

The move is a result of the National Public Prosecution Authority 's decision to decongest detention facilities in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus.

In his letter to prosecutors dated April 1, Aimable Havugayiremye, the National Prosecutor General 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).

Information availed by NPPA indicates that those released include 96 suspects from Gasabo district, 155 from Nyarugenge, 100 from Musanze, 104 from Gicumbi, 113 from Nyagatare , 86 from Rusizi, 61 from Rubavu, 72 from Karongi, 31 from Nyamagabe, 93 from Muhanga and 61 from Huye.

The exercise determining the beneficiaries depended on a number of circumstances, including the charges the suspect faces.

Those charged with serious crimes or recidivists did not benefit from this directive.

Outlined categories

To ease the process, Havugiyaremye broke down the specifics determining who gets released into three categories.

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

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

In Category 2, the team compiled a list of those who were eligible to pay a fine and be released without necessarily being produced in court.

As for Category 3, the team produced a list of suspects who could 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. Their cases 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.

Follow-up briefing

Nkusi told The New Times that the suspects are thoroughly briefed before they are sent home.

"They are always briefed on the conditions and they are fully aware that failure to adhere to them may be a ground for re-arrest," he said.

Government on March 21 announced a two-week lockdown of all suspending all activities except for those that are essential like those related to medical and services. The lockdown has since been extended to another two weeks, until April 19.

Among the activities that were suspended were court proceedings meaning that suspects cannot be produced before courts to determine whether they can be granted bail or remanded to correctional facilities.

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