87% of citizens satisfied with access to justice: research

At least 87 per cent of Rwandans find legal and judicial services provided satisfactory, while trust for mediators remains relatively low, a new study shows.

At least 87 per cent of Rwandans find legal and judicial services provided satisfactory, while trust for mediators remains relatively low, a new study shows.

The research, commissioned by Rwanda Legal Aid Forum, sought to gauge citizens’ perception of justice and legal services in the country.
The study titled, “Citizen Feedback on justice and legal services in Rwanda Through ICT platforms,” sampled more than 5,500 respondents, 62 per cent of them women.

Its main objective was to assess the current framework of interactions between judicial institutions and citizens and examined most recurrent cases.

They involved land disputes, which constituted highest rate of complaints (19 per cent), followed by property disputes (12 per cent), paternity determination (8 per cent), succession (8 per cent) and divorce (7 per cent).

The rest of the complaints, mostly criminal in nature, took 12 per cent and civil-related cases 30 per cent.

Among actors of justice in the settlement of disputes, local authorities and Abunzi (mediators) scored low; 45 and 38.8 per cent, respectively. Respondents faulted Abunzi with bias, lack of understanding of cases, corruption and taking long to make a conclusive decision.

The survey also found that over 90 per cent of citizens were satisfied with the legal services provided by Access to Justice Bureaus (MAJ) and other non-state legal aid providers.

Non-state legal aid providers include Haguruka association, Liprodhor and Ajprodho.

However, delays in service delivery and extreme cost attached to the service remain a great impediment to justice, it was not established.

More effort needed

Reacting on the findings, Andrews Kananga, executive director of the Legal Aid Forum, said legal services were becoming more accessible although more work needed to be done.

“Notwithstanding the opportunities for improvement identified by the survey, citizens are generally satisfied with legal services from courts, non-state legal aid providers, MAJ and local authorities.

“Some respondents encounter problems to obtain indigence certificates to benefit from the legal aid services and this becomes a barrier to accessibility when they need services they are not able to afford,” he said, adding that there was room for improvement.

Other stakeholders called for the quality of legal provision to be enhanced.

“Although there is access to legal aid and although rights are embedded in the law, not everybody is aware of these rights,” said Frederique Maria de Man, Dutch ambassador to Rwanda.

“We must, therefore, work hard to make people aware of their rights.”

The envoy said execution of judgements is still slow, and although there was a platform of professional court bailiffs, there was still more room for reorganisation and strategies.

“We should investigate what this perception is based on. The fact that there is a perception on bias and corruption needs all of us to continue working hard,” she added.

Part of the recommendations called for more input by the state, specifically the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs. For example, MAJ the recommendations asked that executive secretaries of cells and sectors be empowered in legal matters through training to better serve the people.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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