NYARUGENGE - An international judicial conference has recommended the use of Universal jurisdictions but condemned its abuse. The three-day meeting was aimed at evaluating the recent judicial reforms in Rwanda. It concluded Wednesday evening by recognizing progress and remarkable achievements in the reforms.
“The conference applauded the tremendous improvements and achievements made in the justice sector since the reforms started taking shape in 2004,” said Tharcisse Karugarama, the Minister of Justice.
“One of the most important recommendations was in regard to the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction,” he underscored; “the conference came out and condemned its abuse,” Karugarama revealed.
Participants agreed that, ideally, people should be prosecuted from where crimes were committed and that universal jurisdiction is necessary.
Participants proposed that African countries should integrate universal jurisdiction in their legislative framework and strengthen their systems to have African courts handling part of their cases.
Rwanda reiterated its commitment to the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Prosecution of foreigners was also highlighted
“The conference recommends the creation of regulatory mechanisms to question the soundness of indictments/warrants from other national states, with the possibility to suspend warrants as long as they are questioned,” read the draft recommendation document.
In addition, Rwanda was urged to deposit the ratification of the international convention against torture as an instrument for prosecution and extradition.
According to the minister, the conference made several recommendations among which civil society organizations and NGGs should be neutral and work in close collaboration with the government.
“There should also be accountability on the part of the civil society organizations,” he added.
“They shouldn’t consider themselves only accountable to their financiers, but also to the beneficiaries or the countries where they serve,” Karugarama continued.
He stressed that there were sub-recommendations on how close cooperation could be achieved especially on the part of civil society organizations.
Providing information on their budgets and submitting reports for comments before they are published was crucial.
It was agreed that improving relations between the justice sector and civil society organizations should be done by improving dialogue and constructive engagement between both parties to promote better understanding and accountability.
Improvements in the quality of the sector’s work, education, involving the public and their access to justice were also proposed.
The conference urged for improved accountability and productivity by finding ways and means of improving on the existing back-log of cases.
It pointed out increasing the capacity of mediation committees as another area worth improving and called for efforts in achieving uniform and consistent practices.
Gacaca, TIG and unity and reconciliation were also among the recommendations. It was urged that special attention be paid to the sensitivity of sexual violence cases handled by gacaca courts and appropriate measures taken. A new baseline study after gacaca to evaluate its impact was called for, among other things.
Professor Sam Rugege, the deputy chief justice who presided over the closure as guest of honour said that participants enjoyed the conference.
“We didn’t agree on all but we shared a lot and agreed on a lot,” he said.
Karugarama, Rugege, Markus Zimmer of the USA and Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, were the panellists at the official closing of the event that brought participants from many countries as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), civil society organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, African Rights and the East African Court of Justice.