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Rush to imprison hampers the process of reducing overpopulation in Rwandan prisons – TI Rwanda

By MAHAME On:24 November

The latest research conducted by the International Organization against Corruption and Injustice, Transparency International, Rwanda Branch shows that overpopulation in Rwandan prisons is increasing at the rate of 174%.

In general, more than 84 thousand people are imprisoned in Rwandan prisons. About 12,000 people are in pretrial detention, except those detained in police stations, according to a survey conducted in May 2022.

The purpose is to see how the institutions implement other methods provided by law instead of putting people in prison, so that imprisonment is done as a special case.

This follow-up study conducted by the Human Rights Commission in 2019/2020 showed that the overpopulation in the figures had reached a rate of 136%.

The Executive Director of Transparency International Rwanda, Appolinaire Mupiganyi at the end of last week in an interview on the BBC said that one of the causes of overcrowding in prisons is that those prosecuted for minor crimes are punished with imprisonment, but there are other methods that should be used that do not include imprisonment provided for in the laws of Rwanda.

He said: "From the time the Human Rights Commission did the research and the time we did it, the numbers were going up a lot and we feel that it is a problem that the institutions must make a decision in a short time."

“Obviously there are still challenges. The agencies responsible for committing crimes and the justice system rush to lock up rather than considering the 12 other ways they can use to make the lockup special."

Executive Director of Transparency International Rwanda, Appolinaire Mupiganyi

Mupiganyi said that there are serious crimes that the authorities have no choice but to imprison them for prosecution, but for others it is possible to impose fines, house arrest, ring bells, make the person prosecuted by other authorities, and pardon those who have behaved well during imprisonment and so on.

He said: "All of the 12 methods we’ve found are being used at a very low rate, leading to an increase in the number of people being taken to prisons."

The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) spokesperson, Faustin Nkusi, said that the crimes committed are increasing as well as those who commit them due to the rapid development and the emergence of commercial crimes including human trafficking, technology and others.

In the year 2021/2022, the Prosecutor’s Office received 83,349 files in which approximately 106,554 people were prosecuted.

43,645 cases were appealed to the courts while 39,211 were decided, that is, some were released and returned to normal life.

The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) spokesperson, Faustin Nkusi

The president of the Rwandan Bar Association, Me Moise Nkundabarashi, said that according to the results of Transparency Rwanda’s research, the alternative provided by the laws of Rwanda other than imprisonment, if used properly, would reduce overcrowding in prisons by 97.38%.

Article 66 of Law No. 027/2019 of 19/09/2019 on criminal proceedings, stipulates that a person who is suspected of a crime should not be detained as a rule.

He said that there is a case that reaches the court that lasts for three years due to the large number of people who go to the court so that if the court finds that you are accused of a crime and is innocent to accept the consequences, it is a very serious problem.

He said: "We think that people are being prosecuted without detention, but there is a great job to educate people that the fact that a person is not detained temporarily does not mean that he is not prosecuted by the courts."

“We have various examples where the Prosecution has been doing it and people are being prosecuted without being locked up and justice has been served. When a person is convicted and arrested and taken to prison."

Rwanda BAR president Me Moise Nkundabarashi

The Spokesman for the Courts, Mutabazi Harrison, says that more than 40,000 cases filed in the courts in the last judicial year were criminal cases, which means that the number of cases entered is even higher because the courts still have civil, business, administration and labor cases.

He explained that judges are trying to comply with all the punishments provided by the law, but they find that there is a long delay in addition to the small number of court staff.

The Spokesman for the Courts, Mutabazi Harrison

In civil and commercial cases a mediation program has been introduced. It is a way that Rwandans are encouraged to obey because it provides fast and efficient justice.

At this time, judges and contract writers are also being used to assist regular judges at work in order to speed up the adjudication of cases.

There is another form of plea bargaining that was officially launched on October 11, 2022. The case decided in this way does not go through the normal trial process, but it is accelerated and gives time to others who are waiting for trial.

The agreement regarding the admission of guilt is provided by the law of criminal proceedings in article 26. It says that when the accused has finished explaining himself about the charges, the prosecutor can ask him to reach an agreement and help him get all the information necessary for the prosecution of the crime and to know other people who participated in its operation and he also takes advantage of it but does not interfere with the good process of justice.

The prosecutor promised to do what he would do for him in terms of what he would accuse him of in court and the punishment he would ask for. While the investigation is being carried out, the suspect who has reached an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office can be prosecuted outside.

A plea agreement does not prevent the victim from knowing the information on the criminal investigation file and participating in the explanation of the crime.

Article 27 states that if there is an agreement regarding the admission of guilt, the Prosecutor will charge the accused in the agreed manner. The court may or may not accept a plea bargain as in cases where the victim did not intend to plead guilty.

When an agreement is accepted, in making a decision the court takes into account the agreement made between the Prosecution and the defendant.

Faustin Nkusi said that the benefits of using this method include reducing crimes, reducing punishments, tracking someone outside of prison, deferring punishment, paying only fines, etc.

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