Source: The New Times 

President Paul Kagame has called on all stakeholders in the justice sector to pull their efforts and find a lasting solution to the rising crimes related to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the country.

He said this on Monday September 6, during the ceremony to launch the 2021/2021 judicial year that was held at parliament.

Addressing a cross section of senior officials from civilian and military courts as well as high-ranking government officials and diplomats, Kagame called for tougher punishment to send a warning to those who rape women and children and impregnate teenage girls.

"We should put all our efforts into fighting these crimes and ensure that it reduces significantly. The authors of this crime, their accomplices and those that protect them should face tough punishment. It must be made costly for anyone who attempts to do that," he said.

On technology

Kagame touched on technology which he commended the judicial sector for having leveraged to continue delivering justice at the height of the Covid-19 crisis and its related restrictions including lockdowns.

He however pointed out that a report that he had seen indicated that over 400 computers being used by judges were old and outdated and pledged to fix that problem as soon as possible.

He called for a fast and lasting solution for the issues found in the Integrated Electronic Case Management System that has not been fully operational since its launch in 2016.

The system, which connects all institutions in the justice sector - courts, Rwanda Investigation Bureau, prosecution, lawyers and Rwanda Correctional Service - has been commended for bringing efficiency in the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Kagame said that although the government continues to sensitise Rwandans to use technology, especially using their phones particularly in trade and cashless payments, there was need for cooperation to ensure that Rwandans, especially those with limited skills, are protected from falling victim to fraud.

Corruption in the judiciary

He called for the uprooting of the corruption vice that has been consistently reported in the judiciary and among some public servants, saying that the errant officers should be weeded out.

Using the Transparency International Rwanda report as reference, he said there has been pervasive corruption in public tenders especially with infrastructure project, saying that such officers tarnish the country's image.

"We cannot be happy about this and we will not tolerate it," he said.

In his remarks, the Chief Justice Faustin Ntezilyayo touched on the value of technology and mediation, which he said had been instrumental in ensuring that the court cases that were finalised this past year were almost equivalent to the ones the year before, despite the Covid-19 challenges.

"A good example is the judge in the commercial high court who used mediation to solve a dispute involving about 112 people who had a case against a local bank worth Rwf6 billion. This is evidence that mediation is something that Rwandans have started embracing," he said.

The Prosecutor General, Aimable Havugiyaremye on his part said that his office received a total of 67,512 files in 2020/2021, twice the number that was received in the last five years. He attributed this to an increase in some crimes.

"Compared to 2019/2020 judicial year alone, the number increased by 13,553. We attribute this to an increase in some crimes like grave bodily harm which registered 29.9 percent cases and theft at 24 percent," he said.

Rwf2.5bn on legal aid

Rwanda Bar Association's, Adolphe Habimana pointed out that the Bar had facilitated 1,400 lawyers for training programs to enhance their knowledge and provided free services to 5,000 indigent people.

Of the people that the Bar provided legal aid to, over 3,200 were minors facing criminal charges, prisoners, SGBV victims, refugees and Genocide suspects repatriated to Rwanda.

In monetary terms, these cases cost at least Rwf 2.5bn. Of this, at least eight percent is paid by the Ministry of Justice.