The Ombudsman, Anastase Murekezi, yesterday presented his 2018/2019 annual report to members of both chambers of parliament where he said that the leading type of cases his office receives are land-related.
The report makes recommendations in the areas of the office’s mandate to fight corruption and injustice, declaration of assets by public officials, and assessing whether laws governing access to information and leadership code of conduct among others are being adhered to during the period in review.
Murekezi told the parliamentarians that of the 1,091 cases filed with the Ombudsman requesting retrial on the basis of unfairness, 851 were civil lawsuits, mostly which are land-related.
Some of these, are directly related to inheritance issues.
118 are related to criminal cases, 69 are commercial cases, 30 constitutional while 23 are related to labour.
Murekezi said that after a thorough analysis of the cases, only 96 merited retrial, something that indicates that Rwandans need to be sensitised about the value of courts and time.
“In 2018/2019, we had 1,091 cases. Of these, the ones that we felt required fresh trials are 96 only. That shows you that there is a serious problem where the masses are wasting time and court resources,” he said.
He pointed out that an assessment carried out by his office for the last five years had indicated that the ombudsman’s office had reviewed 5273 cases.
Of these, 5343 had been rejected while 433 were found to be unjust.
Murekezi also criticised local leaders whose citizens’ forums with the locals only deal with small matters instead of digging deeper.
“They don’t do any follow-ups. They fail to complete cases and this is costing locals money because they are obliged to pay more yet these are issues that can be fixed by an executive secretary,” he said.
He informed the parliament that unlike the previous years, his office’s activities were now fully funded by the European Union for the next three years.
Changes in the law
The issue of cases filed with the ombudsman requesting retrials has in the past been blamed for backlog which weighed down the Ombudsman’s Office for years.
To fix this, the government last year amended the law and stipulated that a complainant can only petition the Ombudsman’s Office after exhausting all legal avenues up to the Supreme Court.
While those were the conditions in the previous law and a complainant had to write to the Ombudsman if they felt the verdict was unjust, the current law requires the complainant to instead write to a higher court than the one that delivered the judgment.
For instance, if a case was tried by the Primary Court, the complainant is required to petition the Intermediary Court. If the case was tried by the Military Court, they write to the Military High Court.
The President of the court that has been petitioned is required to review the case for any injustices and, if any are found, they write to the Supreme Court which will determine which court should try the case.
Unlike the previous years, the new law requires one to petition the court after the verdict exactly 30 days after the trial.
The Deputy Ombudsman in charge of prevention and fighting injustice; Odette Yankurije says that previously, the law was relaxed and some people could even petition six years after a verdict that they are complaining about was delivered.
“Not anymore. Whether you are writing to the court or petitioning the Ombudsman, you have only thirty days to lodge a complaint from the time you lose a case or from the time the court tells you that there is no case,” she says.