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Courts to Resume But No Audiences

by Edmund Kagire
9:43 pm

As the country prepares to embark on new relaxed measures against New Coronavirus outbreak on Monday, the Chief Justice Dr Faustin Ntezilyayo has issued new directives which courts will follow as they resume operations this coming week.

The new guidelines which were adopted by the High Council of the Judiciary will see courts resume on Monday, May 4, beginning with cases that were put on hold as the country introduced strict measures to stop the spread of the New Coronavirus in March.

“All cases that were closed pending verdicts, judgments will be pronounced the week beginning May 04 to May 08 while regarding all criminal cases in general, courts will focus on the most urgent cases, putting in consideration measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19,” the Chief Justice said.

As a result, the Chief Justice said court sessions will be attended by judges, court staff, attorneys, appellants, defendants and their lawyers until further notice.

Regarding civil, commercial, labour and administrative cases, Dr. Ntezilyayo said courts will handle them beginning with those which were on schedule. Courts will also pay attention to urgent cases as well as Small Claims cases in order to clear the backlog.

Among other things, it was decided that judicial service workers will continue to work from home as it has been, using technology, except those considered essential and are needed to report to office.

“All heads of institutions and departments must ensure that they follow up closely on the staff to ensure that they deliver as expected while those who will be appearing in court or offices must pay close attention to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the communique said.

The Chief Justice said that the courts will continue to deploy digital means to handle some cases as it has been in the lockdown while cases will continue to be filed online using the Rwanda Integrated Electronic Case Management System Rwanda (IECMS). People with queries can call the toll free number 3670.

Last month, the Judiciary initiated the pronouncement of criminal cases using Skype. The use of Skype in the reading of Judgments kicked off with the Intermediate Court of Nyarugenge which pronounced over 17 judgments of inmates detained in Nyarugenge Prison, commonly known as Mageragere.

The President of the Intermediate Court of Nyarugenge, Justice Adolphe Udahemuka said that 21 judgments in total were pronounced including using Skype.

The usage of Skype complements the videoconference procedure launched on April 9 with the hearing of cases with urgency in criminal matters in the Primary Court of Gasabo with inmates in cells of Remera and Kimironko.

The Judiciary embarked on using online platforms for the dispensation of justice during the period when measures were introduced nationwide for preventing and curbing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of inmates with minor or petty cases were also released from different police stations across the country as part of the measures to decongest detention centers.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General Johnston Busingye said that the new measures are aimed at ensuring that people continue to access justice even as the country continues to observe measures to ensure that New Coronavirus pandemic is kept at bay.

“These measures will ensure that justice continues to be served, on-site and online, and in compliance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. They are a reflection of capacity,” Busingye told KT Press.