Disabled people call for judicial reforms

Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of the Council of People with Disabilities, speaks during the meeting. He appealed for special support to enhance access to justice. Courtesy.

The National Council of People with Disabilities has appealed for the creation of a special chamber within intermediate courts or appointment of judges skilled in dealing with cases concerning people with disabilities.

The appeal was made during a dialogue that brought together the Ministry of Justice, people with disabilities and civil society organisations which exposed the gaps in justice service delivery for persons with disabilities.

Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the council’s Executive Secretary, recommended the recruitment or training of specialised professionals in the justice sector including police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, prisoners’ staff, Isange One Stop Centre, officers, lawyers among others.

“There is need for conducting baseline survey on issues related to access to justice for the disabled people,” Ndayisaba said.

We need to introduce data on disability related cases in justice system so as to ensure better advocacy and planning, he said.

“We also recommend that court judgements and laws be translated and disseminated into accessible format such as braille, sign language, audio-visual format with subtitles in large print.”

On strengthening the professionals’ skills in sign language, he said, by the end of this year a sign language dictionary will be published.

“We are left with 20 per cent of work to complete the sign language dictionary,” he said, adding; “…we hope that the sign language will be made an official language and be introduced into the (school) curriculum.” he said.

Among the recommendations, people with disabilities proposed the establishment of a disability rights module to be taught in schools of law and repeal all existing discriminatory provisions within Rwandan laws.

Other challenges that disabled people face in the justice system, he noted, include lack of a guarantee fund to liability cases caused by persons with mental disabilities when they damage properties and people, difficulties in accessing justice premises such as courts among others.

Anastase Nabahire, the Coordinator of Justice, Reconciliation, Law and Order Sector Strategy (JRLOS), said that the recommendation to establish a pool of specialised professionals in judicial system has been taken into account.

“Establishing a specific chamber in intermediate courts for cases related to people with disabilities requires thorough study after all other steps. That is why, instead, we have to be training specialised judges, prosecutors, investigators on different key skills such as sign language, using Braille so that when a related case emerges they intervene. But, so far, we do not have such specialisation,” he said.

He said that the recommendations would be implemented gradually.

Vestine Umulisa, the Deputy Executive Director of Great Lakes Initiative for Humana Rights said and Development (GLIHD), promised to coordinate all stakeholders to ensure that the recommendations are implemented.  

“We are working together on devising a new policy that ensures that all disabled people’s rights are considered. There is progress on introducing principles on their rights in the economic sector, infrastructure and others but there are still gaps in justice sector,” she said.