Justice minister Johnston Busingye has reiterated the government’s commitment to ending unconstitutional pre-trial detention. Such a detention happens when suspects are detained without trial beyond the constitutional period of 30 days according to the Rwandan law. The practice is illegal but remains rife world over.
For any government to come out and state a willingness to curb the practice is commendable.
This calls for stakeholders in the justice sector to push and ensure that the government does not end at rhetoric but implements the ambition.
Incidentally, Minister Busingye was speaking at a training of human rights defenders, the very group that is always fast at raising the red flag on the issue. Since the government has showed its card, the playing field is square. It calls for stakeholders to look deeply into some of the reasons that compel prosecutors to prolong detention of some suspects before they are arraigned before court.
Alongside the issue of prolonged detention without trial is the issue of suspects being held on remand after they have been charged by courts. This often means one remand decision after another, leading to frustration of the defendants and their team. Again, there is always a reason for this, like prosecution seeking more evidence and time to prepare a stronger case, the nature of crime, the calibre of the accused, among others.
However, it is important that the accused are kept in the loop about their rights. Judicial proceedings are about delivering justice and, often times, remands and counter remands have been justified with a just pronouncement where hastened prosecution would have led to miscarriage of justice.
Stakeholders need to find a common ground such that accused persons who are remanded for long are either compensated on acquittal with damages including for the remand.
In striving for expeditious trial, we must not stray from the tenets of dispensation of justice.