This pre-trial justice research project was designed to evaluate and monitor the level of adherence to the rule of law when citizens are arrested and dealt with prior to trial. Specifically, this report provides an analysis of the legislative provisions governing matters of pre-trial justice in Rwanda before seeking to obtain an understanding of the de facto situation. Empirical data was gathered through questionnaires for detained persons and the Judicial Police, as well as interviews with representatives of the Court, the Judicial Police and the National Prosecution Authority (NPPA).
Findings highlight that the de jure position in Rwanda is crystal clear and, in the regional context, Rwanda is to be congratulated on the laws which, in principle, govern the way in which the accused are treated by the state. Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that the de facto position in Rwanda is a cause for concern. It should be pointed out that the problems appear to stem from systemic failures (including limited coordination and no built-in oversight mechanisms in the justice system). Addressing these problems will assist the Government of Rwanda to (1) meet its own development targets, (2) reduce the cost associated with the need for an expanding prison population, and (3) prevent the abuse of citizens’ rights through unlawful or excessive detention in prison. To do so, this report suggests removing the backlog of detained persons to aid the efficiency towards which the government is working in the short term. It is recommended that a working party is established which is able to enter the prisons and review the file of all those who are held in pretrial detention. Further, in the long term, the Government should commission a full review of the criminal justice system in order to achieve greater efficiency and also better coordination and scrutiny of the actions of the agencies in the criminal justice system. Further recommendations made in this report include arrest and detention (provision and enforcement of rights), judicial oversight, and further use of paralegals.
Keywords: Pre-trial justice; Criminal justice system; Rwanda.