Professionalism of Rwandan courts stands at 79%: A TI-Rw analysis stated.

Transparency International Rwanda (TI-Rw) held a workshop to disseminate the results of the situational analysis of professionalism and accountability of courts for a sound rule of law Rwanda. The restitution took place at Umubano Hotel, in Kigali, on this 25th July 2014.

The aim of the analysis was to contribute to strengthening the rule of law in Rwanda by achieving a more professional, effective and accountable justice system.

“The judiciary is independent of course, but as a civil society organization, we wanted to monitor whether really the justice sector was professional and effective” said Apollinaire Mupiganyi, the Executive Director, Transparency International Rwanda.

According to the findings, the overall satisfaction of respondents with the courts and judges professionalism was estimated at 79%. That includes the required qualification of judges which was estimated at 100%, their perceived independence (68.8%), their perceived Integrity (87.8% ) and the courts effectiveness in fulfilling their responsibilities  was estimated at 59.5%.

Regarding the required qualification of judges, the TI-Rw analysis indicated that in the judicial reform of 2004, Rwanda has undertaken many efforts to replace all judges not holding at least a bachelor's degree in law. According to the law adopted in 2013 governing the statutes of judges and judicial personnel, any person aspiring to be a judge should be a holder of at least a bachelor degree in law and a certificate issued by a judicial training institution recognized by the Government. Findings showed that all court judges and inspectors were qualified, as they all hold at least a bachelor's degree in law.

In relation to independence of judges, judges who were interviewed confirmed that they did their work in total independence without interference of the hierarchy or of other authorities. However, data from citizens who had cases in courts suggests that independence of judges is not totally guaranteed in practice, though this opinion is shared by a small proportion (25.4%). Also, some but few judges argued that sometimes when it comes to issues brought to the attention of the hierarchy of courts, the latter may call their attention so that they can be as more diligent as possible, but without giving them any instruction on how to resolve this or that dispute. Sometimes, when faced with a complex issue, judges take the initiative to seek advice from the hierarchy without being bound by their advice.

The level of citizens’ satisfaction with courts’ decision was also high (68.8%). However, around 30 % of respondents were not satisfied. The reasons behind this were the perceived partiality of judges (64,7%), violation of laws by judges (26,8%), lack of judges independence (25,4%), corruption (17,4%) and the poor knowledge of laws by judges (12.7%).

Integrity of judges was the second indicator of the TI-Rw analysis. According to article 6 of the code of conduct of the judiciary, the judge must ensure compliance with the law and behave exemplarily. He/she must, in accordance with the oath of office, discharge his/her duties impartially. Judges must behave in a manner befitting their profession. They must not be interfered with, and they must not accept bribes. With regard to corruption among judges, which is an important aspect of judges’ integrity, it emerged from the study that 17.4% of respondents who were not very satisfied with court decisions evoked corruption as the main reason. In the same vein, the study suggested that around 1 in 10 people experienced cases of corruption in their interaction with judges.

A high number of backlogs was mentioned by the study as one of the reasons of dissatisfaction of the courts clients. A resort to the single judge system, according the findings, has been instrumental in addressing the issue. It was therefore argued that the single judge system would be more appropriate for cases in first resort than last appellate one. The TI-Rw study suggested a resort to part-time judges as one of the solutions to speed up the examination of backlogs and therefore deliver justice in time.

Findings from the analysis showed that the execution of courts’ decisions still remains among important challenges faced by those who resort to courts for justice. Private bailiffs believed to be more effective but they are unfortunately expensive, thus litigants turn back to public bailiffs who are said to delay the execution of courts’ decision due to many reasons such as the lack of knowledge in legal matters, vagueness of court decisions, corruption, friendship or family relationship with the losers and the social position of the loser. On the side of the losing party, the study mentioned that it happens that the execution order is issued while the term of appeal has not yet expired

This analysis was done under a justice monitoring project initiated by  TI-Rw in 2013 thanks to the financial support from European Union. It was the first exercise within the project. After this exercise, the observation phase will follow through visits to institutions and discussions with the member staff of those institutions and the impact evaluation through suggestion box exercise. The last phase will consist of advocacy through media, meetings and publicity materials.

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