KIMIHURURA - President Paul Kagame, yesterday challenged members of the judiciary to stand firm and use their legal expertise to defend the dignity of Rwanda and Africa in general.
Addressing members of the judiciary at the Parliamentary Building during the opening of the 2011/12 Judicial Year, President Kagame said that Rwanda, like many African countries, has found itself a victim of the double standards in the universal jurisdiction.
He challenged the legal fraternity to defend the dignity of Rwanda and Africa, and stand up against unequal treatment, where certain countries outside the continent seek to be considered superior and untouchable when it comes to international justice.
The President referred to cases where foreigners have sought to give themselves the powers to indict and try Rwandans when Rwanda does not have the powers to indict or try the citizens of these countries.
A case in point, President Kagame said, was a Spanish judge who drew a list of Rwandans he felt he wanted to put on trial, adding that these are nothing but political indictments.
The Head of State went on to say that these cases are so political, that even when one individual on this Spanish judge’s indictment list offered to present themselves to the Spanish courts, after they were intercepted by some African country, the offer was turned down.
What this demonstrates, Kagame went on, is that these are cases that cannot be sustained in any court of law and yet the parties that issued the indictments are not prepared to drop them.
“They cannot sustain that case in the courts of law but keeping their indictment is a way of inconveniencing you forever---you should not travel, period. This is happening in countries which, every day, give us lectures about everything, including justice and the law,” Kagame said.
“It is you, the custodians of the law, who should be defending the integrity of this country,” Kagame told members of the judiciary, urging them to think about what such scenarios mean for international justice and how such inequality can be addressed.
President Kagame emphasised it is up to African countries to stand up and say that ‘we cannot have a law of the jungle at the international level’, observing that it should not be an issue of ‘mighty is right.’
He challenged the judiciary to stand up against ‘unequal’ treatment because most of the time, these issues are not about the law or justice but rather ‘bad politics’, which is unacceptable in a civilised world.
President Kagame commended the members of the judiciary for a job well done; reflecting on the progress the sector has registered over the last 17 years.
The President said that the occasion offers the opportunity to present to the Rwandan people the agenda and vision of the Justice sector.
He applauded the judicial reforms that included the setting up of commercial courts, and the achievements registered.
The President pointed out that this was possible partly because the numbers of the judges, prosecutors as well as defence attorneys have been increased.
Despite the impressive record and achievements, the President reminded the members of the judiciary that they still have a long way to go and, therefore, the need to work hard to improve the capacity.
President Kagame reminded them that justice should be dispensed with great care to ensure fairness, emphasising that even a single case of miscarriage of justice is bad enough and should not happen. He appealed to the judiciary to accord this issue all the seriousness it deserves.
The Head of State went on to say that it is imperative for every citizen to know they have the right to justice, while at the same time aware of their own responsibilities before the law.
Among other things, he called on members of the judiciary to uphold and consolidate principles that characterise a good justice system, including fairness, honesty, desisting from corruption and practices that can compromise their duties.
Earlier, the Chief Justice Aloysea Cyanzaire and the president of the High Court, Justice Johnstone Busingye, had highlighted the achievements from 2004 to date.
She cited capacity building for judges, infrastructure, integrating ICT and improving service delivery, noting that the reforms have since paid off.