Govt, partners seek to improve access to justice

Officials from the justice system are set to meet in a retreat where they will discuss how access to justice can be improved. File.

More 40 officials from the justice system, civil society, embassies and Non-Government Organisations are set to meet in a retreat where they will discuss how best public access to justice can be improved.

The retreat is slated for Thursday and Friday this week in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province.

At least 13 per cent of Rwandans find legal and judicial services provided unsatisfactory, according to the 2017 research by Rwanda Legal Aid Forum, which sought to gauge citizens’ perception of justice and legal services in the country.

The Head of the Access to Justice Department in the Ministry of Justice, Martine Urujeni, told The New Times that participants will be seeking to compare notes and take stock of the trend of access to justice.

“We will look into the existing legal framework, background, achievements, challenges, strategies and also come up with the way forward regarding access to justice. This is the first retreat regarding this particular subject but we are hoping to add it to our annual calendar,” she said.

Urujeni said that participants will also dig into the legal aid provision in the country and its role, reach and impact.

“We have many actors but what role and what impact are they having. We will also look at our legal aid in comparison to other countries in terms of good practices and what inspiring models from elsewhere we can borrow and also where we stand in terms of access to justice offer versus demand,” he said.

Underlying issues

The Head of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP), Jean Léonard Sekanyange, said that his institution continues to receive complaints regarding the completion of cases and Gacaca compensation related cases.

“One of the most complicated issues right now is the one regarding people who were supposed to be compensated and are still waiting for that to happen,

The fact that most people who lost these cases are poor and have almost nothing aggravates the issue and makes those waiting feel like justice is not being served,” he said.

He pointed out that, at the retreat, he intends to table and exchange ideas  with his colleagues on the issues raised by the masses regarding their frustration with cases that they won but have not received compensation as ordered by court.

The retreat will attract officials from the judiciary, the Ministry of Local Government, National Public Prosecution Authority, Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Office of the Ombudsman, Rwanda Governance Board, Rwanda Law Reform Commission, the Netherlands Embassy, the European Union, Swedish Embassy, Haguruka, Legal Aid Forum, and Transparency International among others.