President Paul Kagame on Thursday exercised his prerogative of mercy and pardoned 52 persons convicted for the offenses of abortion and infanticide.
This is contained in a statement released after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that was chaired by President Kagame at Village Urugwiro.
Speaking to Saturday Times on Friday, Justice Minister and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, said that the presidential pardon means that the President exercises his power of mercy to give people “another chance.”
“These are very young girls who, under various stressful conditions, committed abortion and infanticide. And the President finds it fitting to give them a second chance. They were convicted for the offences for which the President is allowed by the Constitution to grant mercy,” Busingye said.
The minister could not readily say when the first freed young woman would walk out of jail citing prerequisite formalities, but noted that the process would be completed no later than Saturday.
The presidential mercy for abortion and infanticide convicts came on the eve of the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, on Friday.
The theme for this year’s International Day for the Girl Child is, “GirlForce: Unscripted and unstoppable”.
The International Day of the Girl Child is an international observance day declared by the United Nations. It is also called the Day of Girls and the International Day of the Girl.
Busingye said: “My belief is that none of them will be remaining there (in prison, by Saturday) unless they were convicted this morning or yesterday.”
This is not the first time that the Head of State pardons girls and women convicted for the offence of abortion, complicity in abortion and infanticide.
In April this year, Kagame pardoned 367 girls and women convicted for the offence of abortion, complicity in abortion and infanticide.
In December 2016, a presidential pardon was also granted to 62 girls and women convicted for abortion and children under 16.
2,400 released on parole
Meanwhile, the same cabinet meeting granted parole though a ministerial order granting early release to 2,451 convicts who requested for parole and fulfilled the requirements.
Busingye said: “It is a gesture that is very good for us; that’s how we received it and I guess the beneficiaries also. Those ones who are released, it is also recognition of how they have conducted themselves while in prison; and the law allows it.”
Asked why it took a Ministerial Order, unlike in the case of the more than 50 young women convicted of abortion and infanticide who were pardoned by President Paul Kagame, Busingye explained that it is a normal procedure.
He explained that it is a normal procedure in “a long technical process” that goes through vetting, consideration of the report of the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), and another one by the Prosecutor General, among others.
“The law provides for a ministerial order, an order of the minister with justice in their attributions but for a presidential pardon, the law provides a Presidential Order.
“A Presidential Pardon is that you get an opinion only from the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court.”
The conditional release has three parts, he explained, noting that if someone’s sentence is less than five years and they have served one third of it they qualify, if the sentence is above 10 years and one served two thirds they qualify too.