Justice sector steps up use of scientific evidence to pin GBV perpetrators

A Rwanda Investigation Bureau’s specialist during investigation.It is said that rape was committed in this house in Remera more than 2 years ago. Photo: Courtesy.

The justice sector has scaled up use of scientific evidence to investigate Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases and perpetrators have reason to be scared, according to Johnston Busingye, the Minister for Justice.

This week, Busingye shared field pictures of a GBV case that was being investigated using forensic technology.

In the case, a joint team from the National Public Prosecution Authority, Rwanda Investigation Bureau, and the Rwanda Forensic Laboratory took samples from a long deceased person as part of investigations into a GBV case that also required paternity verification.

“GBV investigation is being stepped seriously up. Offenders will deal with lots of heat,” Busingye said in a Twitter post.

Forensic science has a key role to play in the investigation of crimes where it can provide physical evidence to help reconstruct crime scenes, uphold witness statements, provide intelligence to investigators, or even identify perpetrators.

The essential basis for all forensic techniques is the assumption that every contact leaves a trace and these traces can take various forms: from DNA to fingerprints and hair traces or even marks left by tools used at a particular scene.

In Rwanda, the use of forensic science in looking for evidence in criminal and non-criminal investigations has pretty much hit the limelight in the last two years after the launch of an autonomous national forensic laboratory in the middle of 2018.

By March 2019, the RFL is said to have carried out 61 documents tests, 37 fingerprint tests, 25 forensic toxicology tests, 1028 autopsies, two ICT and cyber-related tests and 3030 tests related to violence.

Without giving statistics, Marie Michelle Umuhoza the Spokesperson of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau told Saturday Times in an interview that her institution uses forensic science whenever they need it.

The technology is also at the exposal of the public who may for one reason or another want to have paternity tests among other things. Some of the key beneficiaries of forensic technology are lawyers – Fiston Rwagitare a lawyer at Certa Law firm in Kigali told Saturday Times that if the opportunity of forensic technology is used well it will change a lot of things.

“In our work, it is very helpful. For example, to verify if the signature on a document is authentic, you need some results from the forensic laboratory. There are also many cases where DNA tests are needed and it is important that these exams are done,” he said.

“From the time this laboratory was established, though I don’t have the statistics, but I know it has reduced the cost very much and the time it used to take to get forensic results. For example, in the past, I asked for a DNA test but it took a lot of time since samples had to be sent to Germany. But now, the process has been eased. I think if this opportunity is used well, it will change a lot of things,” he said.

Meanwhile, in November, the public witnessed one of the first cases where DNA tests done in Rwanda were used in court rulings.

The Supreme Court used DNA results from the RFL to make a verdict in which it granted a 27-year old man paternity to his father who was killed in the Genocide against the Tutsi.

hkuteesa@newtimesrwanda.com

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