Rwanda: Special Committee Set Up to Look Into Long Pre-Trial Detentions

23 November 2020

A special committee has been set up and tasked with looking into the issue of long correctional facility stays preceding suspects' trials and suggesting ways how this can be remedied long term, members of the media heard on Monday, November 23.

Addressing journalists as part of the activities characterising this year's weeklong 'Judicial Week', the Chief Justice Dr. Faustin Ntezilyayo said that the committee will come up with a list of people whose cases are yet to be tried by the courts of law and outline other challenges that arise from this.

"There are indeed some circumstances where a sentence that is finally made in a suspect's trial is equivalent to the period that they have spent in jail. We have set up a special committee to look into this issue and we expect a report which we will base on to fix this issue that has been ongoing for a while," he said.

Focusing on mediation

The Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye touched on the judicial week's main theme regarding the promotion of mediation, saying that it was being promoted to fix a string of challenges in the judicial sector.

He explained that mediation cuts on the back and forth journey for both parties, saving them time and in the long run promoting harmony.

"Mediation is beneficial for all parties. It cuts down on case backlog and in the long run, cuts on the overcrowding of prisons as people wait for trial. It also cuts on the budget because less money is spent on investigating and prosecuting these cases. There is no winner or loser," he said.

Exceptions in the law

However, Havugiyaremye said that while mediation is possible in both civil and criminal cases, there are exceptions.

For instance, the law permits the prosecutor who has received a suspect's file the right to begin the mediation procedures between the suspect and the victim if he or she deems the method the best solution for the victim to get reparations or a method that can minimise the consequences of the crime among other things.

However, the law is also clear that the mediation process cannot happen if the crime committed is punishable by a sentence above two years although an exception is made for minors in crimes that do not exceed five years.

Last year, the Ministry of Justice launched nationwide consultations to gather views to inform an ongoing effort to devise a robust national policy on dispute resolution.

The method was meant to be relied on to fix the rise of cases filed in courts which had since 2016 shot up from 50,000 to 75,000 cases in 2018/2019, indicating a 50 percent growth.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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