This week marks the Legal Aid Week; a new recipe introduced within Rwanda’s Judicial System. A mark has been set in history that will never be forgotten because the judiciary has decided to further breach the gap between the unheard voices behind bars.
This is with a target of giving free legal aid to all residents by the year 2012. To spice up this new recipe, Justice Bureaus will be opened in every district.
This means that residents will no longer have to travel for hours before they can access legal aid at a scrupulous fee because justice will be right next door.
This brings to mind the Gacaca Courts that have so often been criticized by the West as faulty and unfair. In my view any given justice system only works well in relation to a country’s situation and history; in this case, Gacaca Courts can only apply for Rwanda and not the West. Criticism or not Rwanda has learnt from her experience and history.
Rwanda is looking at the brighter side by choosing to pursue justice through peace and reconciliation instead of vengeance.
For this reason, the ongoing Legal Aid Week will ensure that over 618 juvenile cases countrywide get fair hearing and free legal assistance.
Juveniles will get achance to state their cases since it is their right as children. With the crowded prisons filled with all sorts of criminal minds, it only sounds fair and reasonable that these minors, who find themselves in trouble with the law, get separated from further intoxication.
Whatever crimes they committed, they can only be fairly heard in a Juvenile Court System. As compared to the High Court or Supreme Court, Juvenile Courts have benefits too. First of all, they ensure that these children do not get tried as adult criminals who are in a better position to make responsible choices.
Juveniles in most cases fall short because they are under the influence of peer pressure, raging hormones and the weight to become popular. For Rwanda, the fact of the matter is that it is not always the children’s fault for their poor choices and actions; they are merely a victim of their environment or their parents.
Most cases of crime arise from intoxication of the genocide ideology from parents to children. Those who refuse to succumb will probably take a hike to the cities as they escape poverty, only to find themselves on the streets with more street dwellers who share a similar background.
As they go hungry and struggle to find food, their instincts only lead them to schemes that satisfy their hunger and quench their thirst. Eventually under the influence of drugs, these minors commit crimes that lead them to prison.
As they mix with long term prisoners; most of whom are culprits of the 1994 Genocide, they once again meet face to face with what they were previously running away from.
For this very reason, as the Ministry of Justice upgrades its system to one that incorporates juveniles, they need to remember to implement strategies that will prevent further juvenile crime at both grass root and national level. This is a less costly and more productive way of dealing with juveniles.
Besides separating minors from adult criminals is a starting point towards dealing with the root causes of crime and only proves that Rwanda’s Justice System is humane, moral, fair and carries integrity.