Rwanda: Evaluation of Judges on Number of Cases Tried Blamed for 'Bad' Court Verdicts

Evaluating the performance of judges based on the number of cases they try is one of the reasons for that some verdicts are characterised by injustice, it has emerged.

The issue was exposed on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 during a virtual consultative meeting, organised by the Senate of Rwanda, on mechanisms to address injustice issues and challenges in case proceedings and execution of court judgments.

A judge is required to try 22 cases per month, according to information from the Judiciary.

Julien-Gustave Kavaruganda, the president of the Rwanda Bar Association said that the targets that the judges have to achieve sometimes do not help them to effectively dispense justice as they do not have enough time to analyse cases.

"If the assessment and performance of a judge is based on the number of cases, not the quality of the jurisprudence contained in the tried case, I consider that ineffective," he said adding that analysis of one case might take up to three hours.

He said that working under pressure to achieve such a target can also make the judge allocate little time to the parties in the case, limiting the amount of information that is needed to help them come up with a well-informed decision.

"That is why sometimes a judge can deliver an inadequate verdict not because of their intention or corruption, but because of much work in a short time" he said.

Angéline Rutazana, the Inspector General of Courts also said that among the probable reasons for injustice in some court cases, includes a smaller number of judges compared to the cases that have to be tried.

Given that a case filed to court should be tried within six months, sometimes the judges do not get enough time to assess cases, do research and other needed work in order to deliver a verdict based on a thorough analysis.

"That factor is also linked to the aim of the judiciary to tackle the backlog of court cases," she said, pointing out that the goal of the judiciary is to dispense quality and rapid justice.

However, she said, often the quality of litigation trials is hindered by the quest to expedite cases with aim to tackle the backlogs, indicating that cases that end up in courts have been on the rise from 44,414 cases 2004 to 75,188 in the last judicial year (2019).

Senator François Habiyakare said that 22 cases per month implies one case per day given that there are eight weekend days that public servants have to rest, adding that such a situation reflects the shortage of magistrates.

"It is necessary that the number of judges be increased so that they are allowed enough time to analyse cases," he said.

Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, Chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda said that, in the organisation's study on injustice in courts, they did not attach enough attention to the tight work of judges, pointing out that "we have noted that, and we will do research to know the number of cases that are filed to courts."

Meanwhile, she decried corruption in court cases, which does not only involve bribes, but also favoritism, acquaintances and nepotism.

"There are instances where a judge obviously disregards the evidence provided by one of the parties in the case, which makes them lose it," she said, pointing out that lack of integrity and skills are some of the factors that have been identified .

According to the 2018/2019 activity report of the Office of the Ombudsman, residents submitted 1,091 cases claiming that injustice was committed in their judgments.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman found that injustice was done in 96 cases, representing 8.8 percent of the total. The Office requested the Supreme Court to retry those cases.

It indicates that the Inspectorate of Courts analysed 43 of those cases and realised that 29 or 67.4 percent of them should be retried. The Supreme Court later tried 23 of those cases, and confirmed that there was injustice in 20 or 86.9 percent of those scrutinised.

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