President Paul Kagame yesterday commended the justice sector for the achievements registered in the past ten years since the judicial reforms.
Launching the 2014-2015 Judicial Year at the Parliamentary Buildings, Kimihurura, Kagame pointed out that justice is a key pillar to the national development agenda and that the rule of law and justice system that every Rwandan trusts goes hand in hand with the good governance Rwandans have chosen.
He pointed out that no one has the right to violate the principle of equality for all before the law and no one should think it is within their right to undermine the progress of Rwanda. President Kagame added that equality before the all applies to all irrespective of one’s contribution to Rwanda’s history.
Kagame recalled the state of judiciary in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide and noted that the progress made is a result of collective efforts.
The President, however, said that justice at the local level should be encouraged, to ensure that more cases are resolved before they get to court.
He advised law practitioners to continue combating crimes including cross-border crimes, human and drug trafficking and cyber crime.
Chief Justice Sam Rugege highlighted major achievements of the justice sector in the past ten years recalling the challenges faced twenty years ago, including judges who had either participated in the Genocide or had been killed while others had simply fled the country.
“By the time we started the reforms in 2004, a case filed would spend three years in court but today the average time a case spends in court is four months,” said Rugege.
Rugege pointed to the drastic reduction of backlogs in the past four years. In the last four years, the number of backlog cases decreased by over 8,000 in both the High Courts and Intermediate Courts.
Regarding public perception of the judiciary, Rugege pointed to a recent report by Transparency International Rwanda which indicated that 79 per cent of Rwandans are happy with court decisions.
Similarly, the 2014-15 Global Competitiveness report by the World Economic Forum this week, ranked Rwanda as the 3rd country in Africa and 34th worldwide in efficiency of the legal framework and settling disputes.
(Opening of the Judicial Year 2014/2015. Source: Paul Kagame/YouTube)
During the event, the Prosecutor General, Richard Muhumuza spoke of progress in pursuing Genocide fugitives.
“Due to effective operations, we managed to issue 55 indictments for the Genocide and five Genocide suspects were transferred to Rwanda in the past judicial year,” he said.
The president of the Rwanda Bar Association, Athanase Rutabingwa, recalled that in 2004, the Bar had only 91 lawyers among them 17 female. Yet, today, he said, the Bar has over 1000 accredited lawyers of which 35 per cent operate out of Kigali.
“As part of contributing to the justice system, we represent Genocide survivors in court on a pro bono basis. In 2013, we handled 3,070 cases of Genocide survivors,” Rutabingwa said.