At least 68.8 per cent of people who have gone through courts are satisfied by the court decisions in the country.
This is according to a new study, dubbed ‘Situational Analysis of Professionalism and Accountability of Courts for a sound rule of law in Rwanda.’
Released yesterday, the report revealed growing public satisfaction for the decisions rendered by judges in different courts across the country.
The sampled population was 2,931 and they had had cases at all courts right from primary courts to the Supreme Court.
The respondents who were dissatisfied by courts’ decisions cited a number of reasons with majority, saying the judges were not impartial (64.7 per cent), deliberate violation of the law by judges (26.8 per cent), corruption (17.4 per cent) while lack of knowledge of the law accounted for 12.7 per cent.
The report also indicates that 36 per cent of convicts believe judges ruled their cases fairly and the sentences handed to them were commensurate to the crimes they committed.
“This is an impressive figure, no one expects a convict to say that they deserved the sentence they got and in this case, I should say we were equally surprised,” said Albert Rwego, the Project Manager, Transparent International - Rwanda, which conducted the study.
“This is an indication that the decisions taken are fair.”
Meanwhile, during the research, judges at all levels said they were independent and have no interference from either the Executive or any other organ.
“However, we were told that, in some cases, some of the judges sampled admitted having received calls from the superior courts telling them to be more diligent on a case, but without giving them any instruction on how to resolve a dispute,” said Kavatiri during the presentation of the findings.
Kavatiri added that, “some judges told us that, sometimes, when faced with a complex issue, they take the initiative to seek advice from their more senior colleagues but it does not mean they are compelled to take this advice.”
Corruption in courts
The types of corruption reported in courts by respondents included; favoritism or nepotism, bribery, and sexual based corruption.
“Overall, the level of professionalism in Rwandan courts stands high (at 79 per cent). Indeed, all judges have the required qualification (at least a Bachelors degree in law); high citizens’ satisfaction with court decisions (68.8 per cent), very high integrity among judges (87.8 per cent), moderate level of effectiveness of courts in fulfilling their responsibilities (59.5 per cent),” said the researcher.
The moderate level of effectiveness of courts is largely affected by critical issues, including delays in delivering rulings.
The Inspector General of Courts, Regis Rukundakuvuga, said TI-Rwanda findings were factual and drew attention to the history of the judiciary, saying that the sector came from a very low base to be where it is today.
“Much as we have some cases of corruption among our judges, there are high that a ruling by the judge will not please both litigants so some may unjustifiably cite corruption where actually it is not,” he said.
He said wherever allegations are made, investigations are carried out and, as a result, some people within the judiciary who were found culpable have been penalised.