Rwanda’s judicial system has reached a critical stage, where principles of independence and impartiality guide and play a central role in dispensing justice, according to Justice Minister.
Johnston Busingye, who was commenting at the global ranking on judicial independence by World Economic Forum, which ranked Rwanda 23 globally, and top in Africa, however noted that despite these gains, the system might not be faultless. The report, that was released early this week, ranks Namibia behind Rwanda at 29 (globally), Egypt (31), Mauritius (34) and South Africa (36), respectively.
Busingye said the ranking means that reforms in Rwanda’s judicial sector are paying off, but added that more can be done particularly in capacity building of stakeholders, among other things.
“This ranking speaks to the judiciary’s guiding principle to be and to be seen to be independent and impartial, as well as the effort put into it by multiple stakeholders and sustained human and material capacity building over the years,” he told The New Times.
The minister added: “The ranking doesn’t mean that all is perfect, but as you can see even the first country globally doesn’t have 100 per cent. For us it means our judiciary has come of age; it’s the reason for sustained confidence and trust.” For the sector, the Attorney General said that the WEF rating means that Rwanda’s judiciary’s “wide approach” is paying off. “It is a result of multiple sector stakeholder efforts; recognition of judicial independence is the key badge every justice sector wants to wear.”
However, he called on sector players to “work harder” to better what is being done, especially through capacity building, and to raise the bar on disciplinary and ethical standards, among other things.
In 2004, judicial reforms were adopted following the new constitution that had been put in place a year earlier. The reforms came with a series of new laws and new court structures such as Gacaca jurisdictions - a form of popular justice modeled on past customary conflict-resolution practices, to judge most cases of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Additionally, the government initiated a thorough reform of conventional justice, seeking to create what was described as a “modern” professional judiciary that would support the commercial and financial development envisioned for the country. Before the reforms, cases could take even up to 20 years to be concluded. Justice was also decentralised, while mediation committees were established to encourage people to settle disputes outside the court system.