Rwanda is making progress in integrating plea bargaining as a vital tool to enhance the justice sector by improving restorative justice, reducing the backlog in courts, and congestion in prisons. Introduced in October 2022, plea bargains are agreements – in criminal law proceedings – between defendants and prosecutors in which defendants agree to plead guilty to some or all of the charges against them in exchange for concessions, such as the dismissal of charges, from the prosecutors. In 2023 alone, over 5,000 cases were successfully plea bargained, primarily assault and theft offenses, which are the crimes currently covered under the procedure. ALSO READ: Plea bargain: Over 5,000 cases concluded in one year Though directives from the judiciary express an intention to extend plea bargaining for consideration in all crimes, not every case will be deemed suitable for this procedure. Factors such as community interests, victim considerations, and the suspect’s criminal record are among the critical considerations. ALSO READ: Prison population on the rise despite decongestion efforts This article outlines situations where cases may not be considered for plea bargains: 1. Cases involving repeat offenders: Cases involving individuals with a prior conviction for the same crime may not qualify for plea bargaining. The prosecutor must verify that no competent court has previously sentenced the defendant for the charged offense, according to article 10 of the directives. 2. Cases that pose safety challenges to communities. Plea bargaining may not apply in cases that are against community interests, especially safety of the people. Prosecutors, according to article 11 of the directives, must consider the interests of the victims, complainants, and the community. For example, releasing an offender who poses a threat to the community may jeopardise public safety, and thus, the prosecutors are urged to gather information from the community regarding the crime and the suspect. After that, they can use their discretion to decide if they should continue with the plea bargain process. 3. Cases with grave outcomes Cases involving severe outcomes, such as child rape, may not be eligible for plea bargains. Judicial spokesperson Harrison Mutabazi told The New Times that there is a need for caution in dealing with such odious cases. The directives don’t outline cases that should not be considered for plea bargains, but prosecutors are encouraged to use their discretion to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice during the process of plea bargaining. ALSO READ: Defilement offenders face ‘legal action at any point in their lives’ 4. Cases that involve falsehoods in plea bargain agreements: If falsehoods are discovered in a plea bargain agreement, judges have the authority to cancel it. Malpractice between the involved parties (prosecutors, defence lawyers, victims and suspects) in an attempt to go around justice could lead to the annulment of the agreement.