Busingye underscores commitment to end lengthy pre-trial detention

Justice Minister Johnston Busingye has reiterated government’s commitment to ensuring zero cases of prolonged pre-trial detention.

Justice Minister Johnston Busingye has reiterated government’s commitment to ensuring zero cases of prolonged pre-trial detention.

The minister said this on Tuesday as he officiated at a training of human rights defenders from 24 countries from Africa and the Caribbean on reducing the overuse of pre-trial detentions.

The training, which is being held in Kigali, will end today.

“The over use of pre-trial detention is indeed a subject worth constant examination. The questions we need to keep asking include, at what point is pre-trial detention said to be over-used? Is over use of pre-trial detention absolute or relative? Does the fact that a suspect ultimately gets acquitted make his pre-trial detention unjustified?”

In Rwanda, the pre-trial detention is set at 30 days and it is at the judge’s discretion to extend it, depending on the given circumstances.

He said that not all detentions are irrational, unjustified or unnecessary.

In his observation, Busingye who previously served as the president of the High Court, said persons who are highly probable flight risk, those likely to endanger witnesses or interfere with their trial will most likely be detained pending trial.

“Most criminal justice systems unfortunately present very few, if any, reasonable alternatives.”

Rwanda has in the last 15 to 20 years registered a tremendous decrease in the number of days a suspect spends in detention pending trial.

A case in point, before the initiation of the Gacaca jurisdiction, the judicial system had about 150,000 people in detention awaiting trial. Today, the number has gone down to an average of 420 people.

On the continental level the percentage of pre-trial detection stands at an average of 35 per cent while Rwanda is at 7 per cent.

“I, therefore, believe that pre-trial detention is a necessary component of the criminal justice systems. What is important is that it is not abused by being prolonged beyond what is reasonable in the circumstances of each particular case,” said the Minister.

He reminded judicial practitioners that the task of other human rights stakeholders such as National Commission for Human Rights and Civil Society is to keep watch and help the Government to fulfill its mandate and balance the interests of all the parties.

As Africa continues to be associated with poverty, hunger, conflict, refugees, disease, minority rights abuses, corruption, and a host of other issues, Africans need to appreciate that no one else will reverse this trend but themselves, Businge said.