Supreme Court undergoes reforms

PARLIAMENT - Unless one has been handed a life sentence, one may not lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court, a parliamentary plenary session heard yesterday. Currently, the Court, which is the highest jurisdiction in the country, only accepts appeals against sentences of 10 year imprisonment and above.
PRESENTED BILL: Tharcise Karugarama
PRESENTED BILL: Tharcise Karugarama

PARLIAMENT - Unless one has been handed a life sentence, one may not lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court, a parliamentary plenary session heard yesterday.

Currently, the Court, which is the highest jurisdiction in the country, only accepts appeals against sentences of 10 year imprisonment and above.

Such an appeal can only be accepted if the court of first instance found out that there were laws that were disregarded or serious flaws that caused injustice.

Under the new draft law which is being debated in parliament, the court can also only hear commercial disputes involving Rwf, 50m and above instead of the current Rwf 20m ceiling.

Presenting the bill before a parliamentary session yesterday, Justice Minister, Tharcise Karugarama, said the changes are intended to clear the 43,000 backlog of cases currently stalled at the Supreme Court.

The Minister told the session that currently it takes an average of six months to get a hearing from the Court. 
MP Desire Nyandwi described the reforms as unfair and warned that injustice is likely to occur.

The draft law also says that an appeal that was struck out by the Supreme Court cannot be reinstituted in the same court.

The court also has appellate jurisdiction over cases that were decided by the high court, commercial high court and the military high court if the cases have implications on national security.

According to the bill, the right to petition the Supreme Court is a preserve of citizens, political candidates, political organisations and the Electoral Commission.

Decisions by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all lower courts, the bill says. 

Karugarama also revealed that under the new law, Rwandan judicial courts shall adopt the principal of precedent in making judicial decisions.

“Lack of precedent creates anarchy,” he told parliament.
Rwanda is currently using a hybrid of civil and common laws and the principal of precedent is only applied under the British common law.

The Minister said the reforms are intended to enable courts deliver justice in a time.

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