The Senate yesterday unanimously adopted the life imprisonment with special provision bill that will enable the imposition of a special punishment on recidivist offenders.
A recidivist is one who commits a second (or higher) crime; a repeat offender; a habitual criminal. Such a person is usually subjected to extended confinement under habitual criminal statutes.
Presenting the bill, the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, told Senators that the life imprisonment with special provision bill fulfils a clause in the death penalty abolition bill.
“The law abolishing the death penalty indicates that those who were sentenced to death will serve a life imprisonment with special provision. This new bill clearly states what the special provisions are,” said Karugarama.
He added; “We have people who commit crimes in such a terrible criminal manner and repeatedly that they should be punished in a special manner – they were meant to be sentenced to death but since we abolished the death penalty they are punished in a special way.”
He told Senators that this category includes people who have committed rape, abuse of dead bodies and have done terrible crimes repeatedly.
According to the bill; ‘a person convicted to life imprisonment with special provision is not entitled to any kind of presidential mercy, conditional release or rehabilitation, parole, unless he/she has served at least 20 years of imprisonment that is when they can apply for those benefits.”
Other ordinary criminals on life sentence can apply for presidential mercy, conditional release or rehabilitation, parole after serving 10 years of imprisonment.
“Those on special provision are kept in individual cells not in the communal dormitories in prison so that they can have time to reflect on what they did,” Karugarama told The New Times. He emphasised that the bill only applies to people convicted by Rwandan courts.
“It does not apply to people convicted from somewhere else but our prison facilities which comply by the international standards, are open to prisoners from other countries that have been convicted by other courts and want them to serve their sentences here,” Karugarama said.
He pointed out that Rwanda has an agreement with a special court for Sierra Leone to have their prisoners serve their sentences Rwanda.
“This agreement has not come into force since the parliament has not ratified it, after ratification that is when we can have the first prisoner transfer,” Karugarama said.