Chief Justice Faustin Ntezilyayo on Friday, October 14, said that the judiciary is already witnessing a reduction in case backlog following the new momentum to encourage litigants to use alternative justice mechanisms. Speaking during the launch of the Judicial year 2022-2022, Ntezilyayo also pointed out that there has been an increase in cases going to court. “The cases that are settled under mediation keep increasing and this is why we want to direct more efforts in mediation and roll it out on a much wider scale,” said Ntezilyayo at the event that attracted all players in the judicial sector, including prosecutors, lawyers and investigators. Courts have two mechanisms of mediation that help litigants settle their cases amicably. These include pre-trial mediation and judge-facilitated mediation. Ntezilyayo also hailed the Court Mediation Advisory Committee that is led by Chief Justice Emeritus, Sam Rugege saying that the committee’s contribution to the justice system is increasing and of great significance. Rugege was, in 2020, elected to head the committee, in the same year, 51 mediators were named by the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice added that the judiciary continues to shift to digital as a way of streamlining the delivery of justice and this coming year, court officials will be using a new system called Judicial Management Performance System. “Over 90 court officers are undertaking advanced training on managing emerging crimes. We also continue emphasizing on professionalism, ethics, and transparency as a way of ensuring we deliver justice to Rwandans. However, we are challenged by the increase in the number of cases coming into courts yet the number of judges handling them has not increased,” Ntezilyayo said. As a result, the number of pending cases has increased by 50 per cent in the last three years, from 52,952 cases in 2019/2020 to 79,468 cases in 2021/2022 except for the Supreme Court and Commercial High Court that recorded a decrease. With regards to case backlog, statistics from the judiciary indicate that they stand at 59 per cent representing 47,091. Cases exceeding six months are considered as backlog. In the just-concluded judicial year, there were 102,542 cases that went to the judiciary, among those criminal cases are dominant, representing 71 per cent of total cases filed in courts. The judiciary also says that the number of cases that were concluded increased by 19 per cent and the total number of cases judged per judge per month increased from 22 to 24. “However, the number of case backlog has continued to increase mainly due to the increase in newly filed cases while the number of judges and other judicial officers has not followed the same trend. In a related development, the Minister of Justice, Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, said that part of what has to be considered in marking the judicial year is the 28-year long journey and the milestones recorded. In his address, the Prosecutor General, Aimable Havugiyaremye, said that cases received by the prosecution in the last five years have gone up by over three folds from 25,000 cases to over 83,000 case files this year. “Although the cases increased, the staff did not increase and this may have an effect on the quality of the cases but our request for additional staff was put into consideration,” he said. He noted that Prosecution recorded a 90.7 per cent conviction rate, implying that, of the 37, 280 cases that courts ruled on, the prosecution secured 33,799 convictions. For the lawyers, the president of the Rwanda Bar Association (RBA) Moïse Nkundabarashi said that lawyers offered pro-bono services in 4,614 cases that are valued to have cost Rwf 2.3 billion.