Judicial Week: Rugege roots for mediation as court cases rise

Chief Justice Sam Rugege during a recent interview with the New Times (Sam Ngendahimana)

Cases filed in courts have been on the rise since 2016 as they shot up from 50,000 in that year to 75,000 cases in 2018/2019, indicating a growth of 50 percent in the last three years, the Chief Justice has said calling for mediation to avert the trend.

Prof. Sam Rugege made the revelation on Friday, November 22, 2019, during a news conference organised by the judiciary at the Supreme Court in Kimihurura.

The news conference was held ahead of the Judicial Week due to take place from November 25-29, 2019.

“When cases go up but the number of judges does not increase, they may end up working under pressure to adjudicate on all the cases. In that situation, it is difficult for justice to be delivered effectively,” Rugege said.

For judges to improve the quality of judgment, such cases should reduce so that they take more time on a case to come up with a befitting ruling,” he said.

Rugege said that given that between 80 and 90 percent of civil suits are handled through mediation by ‘Abunzi’  or community mediators, more could be handled at the level of pre-trial conference to ensure even fewer end up on trial.

Pre-trial conference is a system introduced by the judiciary where before a case goes to court, parties are called by the registrar or the judge to give them a chance of coming to a negotiated solution.

In addition, he said, as cases increase and people in question get imprisoned, it results in overcrowding in prions, an issue which can also be tackled through mediation, and crime prevention.

There is no point in why civil cases such as divorce should end up in courts, Rugege said, pointing out that in case divorce is the only option, the couple in question and families should use mediation to determine who takes what from the family estate instead of jumping from one courtroom to another.

“It is through meditation that we can achieve a more sustainable and equitable justice in a way that will prevent conflicts among families,” he said, adding that the winner-takes-all nature of court ruling implies that the parties have squandered the opportunity of ever making peace and restore the friendship.

While mediation can the best way of solving conflicts, however, it should not be used on felonies such as murder and rape, saying for such the best approach is to focus on prevention.

 “In this week, we are going to work together with the prosecution, and the investigation organs as well as other institutions so as to curb crimes and cases subsequently,” he said.

Prosecutor General, Jean Bosco Mutangana underscored that “prosecution will also focus on the use of mediation any time it is deemed appropriate, and explain to people the importance of this technique in handling cases.”

He also said the code of criminal procedure provides for plea bargain whereby an offender can admit to crimes and agree with the accusing party on the punishment which is then maintained at court level,” which might ease judgment and make the process less costly for both parties.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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