Alphonse Hitiyaremye is the Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) of Rwanda. He recently led a team of Prosecutors, to discuss tough measures to punish ‘Class One’ crimes’ under which corruption falls.
The other two are child abuse and trials of Category One suspects of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
The New Times’ STEPHEN RWEMBEHO spoke to the Hitiyaremye in Rwamagana on the sidelines of the meeting.
The New Times (TNT): Talk about corruption
Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG): We have managed to unravel so many cases of corruption. For instance the issues of fertilisers in MINALOC, building houses for the vulnerable, Mutuelle de Sante, etc. revealed embezzlement of funds.
We have ordered the arrest of all the culprits. Corruption is handled with the vigour it deserves. People’s funds have to be protected by all means.
TNT: What about the punishment controversy?
DPG: I am sure you are talking about people who embezzle public funds, and serve years in jail, only to go back and enjoy the money. We are going to tighten the bolt.
If we suspect anybody to be involved in embezzlement of public funds, we will immediately freeze his or her assets until the law takes its course.
If he is proved guilty then the assets will be auctioned and money taken back to government coffers. If people thought there is some leniency, let them know that the honeymoon is over.
TNT: What is your view on the ‘time lag’ between investigations and conviction?
DPG: There is a judicial principle that one is innocent until proved guilty. We cannot debate on that but there are some measures to check the problems associated with such a principle.
People tend to escape when investigations are still going on- you know they are released by courts as investigations to fill the dossier continue.
This time around we shall no longer produce anybody before the court, until his dossier is complete. This will apply to all sensitive crimes.
TNT: Are you satisfied with Gacaca courts?
DPG: Yes I am. We have actually decided something important in this meeting. The Category One Genocide cases we received from Gacaca courts are going to be tried forthwith.
Gacaca courts don’t try category one crimes. Prosecutors are going indeed to quicken all such trials. No case will exceed one month without a hearing, unless there is a special permission from the Prosecutor General.
TNT: What are the updates on defilement?
DPG: Defilement is still present in many parts of the country. However parents take the lion’s share of the blame. They leave their daughters with male strangers.
The males could be houseboys or peers, who move with them to fetch water or gather fire wood, go with them to parties and discotheques, etc.
All these environments expose the girl child to dangers of rape. I therefore, in this respect, call upon parents to be more vigilant and responsible.
TNT: Aren’t you soft on rapists?
DPG: We are extremely tough on rapists. I am satisfied that the punishments set are deterrent enough. For example, if a child under 14 is raped, the law stipulates that the culprit will be sentenced to life imprisonment, the maximum sentence in Rwanda.
And, if the girl victim is between 14 and 18, the rapist is sentenced to 25 years in prison. These are not soft punishments.
TNT: What should a woman do if she faces the risk of rape?
DPG: First, she should defend or protect herself as much as possible. When she falls into the risk of rape attempt, she must search for ways to get help. For example, crying or shouting.
Thus the rapist may leave her or other people may help or rescue her. Also, if the rape happens, the people who heard or/and saw her can serve as witnesses in her case.
If a woman is raped, she must immediately report to the nearest police station.
This helps her to have the symptoms of rape recorded, and in the absence of witnesses these symptoms (medical or visual) can help prove the crime and punish the suspected or accused rapist.
In addition the victim can find medical support to prevent pregnancy, or other (STD) diseases. But some women fail to report the rape to the police because of shame, fear or risk of alienation. This is a big mistake and can lead to bigger problems.
TNT: Do you cherish the media?
DPG: Yes I do. It is important for us who serve the people to work with the media. Whatever we do must be communicated to the people through the media.
The media is the eye and ear of the people. For instance, people would like to see the person who stole their money, raped their children, killed their loved one, etc.
So the media should always come to us to get the right information. It is illogical to go for rumours when you have the source at your disposal.
TNT: Do you read newspapers and magazines” Which columns or parts do you enjoy more?
DPG: I read The New Times’ front page and other material related to law. It is a reliable paper. When I have time I also go for international news in other papers online.
TNT: How do you relax?
DPG: When I am free, I swim and play with my children.