Ministerial Order introducing ankle monitors for suspects in the offing

Justice minister Johnston Busingye. / Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva.

Ministerial Order determining the use of electronic ankle monitors for suspects will be out soon, Minister for Justice Johnston Busingye, has said, as part of the measures to decongest correctional centres.

Busingye, who is also the Attorney General, told The New Times on Tuesday, February 11, that the draft Order will be discussed by cabinet in the near future.

The move to introduce electronic ankle monitors for suspects was first announced in 2018 with view to decongest prisons.

Under the proposed arrangement, the monitor transmits the wearer’s location to a monitoring system via GPS and an attempt to remove the device triggers an alarm to law enforcers.

If the offender travels outside of a set geographic area, such as the city in which they live, it triggers an alarm.

Although Busingye did not specify when the system will be operational, he said that there were some inputs that are still in the pipeline.

“These are monitors that have to be controlled from a central point. We are working with the Rwanda National Police on the technical side of this new move so as to make sure that we build a strong and suitable network,” he said.

This comes after the 2018/2019 report by the National Commission for Human Rights exposed widespread congestion in the country’s correctional centres.

Rwamagana Correctional Centre in Eastern Province had the highest congestion with 12,949 inmates against its capacity of 5,055 inmates.

The report recommended the development of strategies to tackle overcrowding problem in prisons.

Congestion in prisons

Among the measures that were proposed include the expansion of some correctional facilities as well as the introduction of electronic ankle monitors.

According to statistics from Rwanda Correctional Services, there are 13 correctional facilities with a total of 75,000 inmates country-wide.

RCS says there are several measures put in place to deal with the issue of congestion.

“One of the major steps we took is to expand current jails and construct new ones,” Superintendent Athanase Nyandwi told a news conference on Monday this week.

He added: “Among these include the construction of the new Nyarugenge correctional facility, commonly known as Mageragere, which is now at 85 per cent to completion. Rwamagana and Nyamagabe prisons have also been expanded. Others like Muhanga and Musanze prisons are also being expanded.”

Nyandwi added that: “Besides, the infrastructure measures, we have taken legal measures whereby every year we give probation to prisoners who meet necessary requirements. We also expect the use of electronic ankle monitors to reduce this problem.”

Steven Kalinganire, a lawyer, told The New Times that this move comes to emphasise the right to justice.

“It is an important step that will help implement the new law on criminal procedures that stipulates that every suspect regardless of the case is allowed a bail before he appears in court,” he said.

“It is not right to be imprisoned before being sentenced; therefore there was need of a mechanism to monitor those given bail, and I think these electronic ankle detectors will come as a solution to that.”

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