Rwanda: Over 900 Cases Involving Minors Head to Court

In a bid to decongest correctional facilities, the judiciary has finalised 917 files involving minors and allocated them trial dates in the courts of law.

Speaking to The New Times exclusively, the Inspector of Court Jean Claude Nsengiyumva said that this list of names was produced in February and another one is expected in March.

"There are minors that are being held and those out on bail. All the courts were requested to allocate them trial dates and to expedite their cases. 917 criminal cases were ready for courts as of February," he said.

The move to expedite court processes comes after judicial authorities announced in November last year that they had set up a special committee and tasked it with looking into the issue of long correctional facility stays preceding suspects' trials and suggesting ways how this can be remedied long term.

Nsengiyumva explained that after this committee was set up, all correctional facilities were requested to come up with lists which it reviewed and is in the final stages of coming up with a comprehensive one that would guide the next steps.

"Indeed the correctional facilities provided by the lists and there were mix-ups in some cases. The lists are under review but we expect the committee's final report to be in at least before the end of May," he said.

Other means

However, he said that as this list is being worked on, the work to decongest the facilities continues.

Besides setting dates for the juvenile delinquents, the judiciary had also allocated trial dates for suspects whose crimes require sentences that are not beyond two years.

Their trial dates are all set for this year.

Courts were also requested to reschedule trial dates set for 2022 and move them forward to 2021 especially those involving civil cases.

Changing strategy

In 2019, the government embarked on a long term plan to decongest its correctional facilities by focusing more on rehabilitation.

The Minister for Justice; Johnston Busingye said the government is focusing more on giving Rwandans who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law second chances instead of building more prisons.

"We don't run prisons, we run correctional facilities. As part of our plan to fight the congestion issue, we are working on reducing the time people spend in jail. The law stipulates that depending on the crime and sentence, someone can be released either after they serve half their sentence or three quarters of it," he said.

Busingye told the lawmakers that there was a push for Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) to concentrate more on promoting a change in attitude and mindset through providing the appropriate rehabilitation required to reintegrate former inmates into society.

"We have tasked RCS to come up with a strategy that can support our plan and if there is a need for skills or therapy to address personal or family issues, RCS should be able to fix that," he said.

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