COVID-19 pandemic which hit hard every component of the economy locally and globally did not spare the justice sector, but Rwanda’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General says the core mission will remain intact no matter the challenges.
“The pandemic cannot take away our primary responsibility of delivering justice and legal aid. Through this covid-19 time, we have been able to make a modest improvement in the IT system to deliver justice and will always keep going forward,” Minister Johnston Busingye said.
The official suggested that there is a great need for all judicial partners to expand IT networks, but also find IT solutions in reaching citizens directly.
The remarks were made during the virtual meeting that convened justice players including the Ministry of Justice, Rwanda National Police, Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB), Rwanda Law Reform Commission, and the European Union to launch the Justice and legal aid month for 2021 on Thursday 24.
Other attendees included Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS), Human Rights First Rwanda Association (HRFRA), among others.
The virtual meeting also aimed at discussing how technology can be used in improving justice services and legal aid to people across the country.
This year, the justice and legal month will embark on raising awareness on Justice service delivery during the Covid-19 pandemic, sharing experiences about judicial services in the pandemic, raising public awareness on commonly used laws, and amicable dispute settlement.
It was organized under the theme: continuing the challenge of delivering justice for all and preventing Covid-19.
The Ministry of Justice and partners will use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to raise awareness about judicial service delivery in the Covid-19 Pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Justice, experienced drama groups will be hired to produce and record a drama series of 15 minutes on Covid-19 situational justice service delivery and the series will be aired on radio stations during Justice month.
Moreover, vulnerable people with cases that need legal assistance in civil and criminal matters will be identified and assisted by the Rwanda Bar Association and the Legal Aid Forum Lawyers for legal solutions.
According to Busingye, Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that access to Justice is broader than legal aid because even a justice service provider, a rich person, can all face problems accessing justice, because of unpredictable circumstances.
In this period of COVID-19, Rwanda defied the odds. Justice sector institutions established a system to cope with the situation of serving people in a timely, fair, and effective manner.
The established technology systems used courts including virtual hearings, legal aid services like legal education, legal advice, and legal orientation.
These services are enabled by Electronic Case Management System (IECMS), 845 Call Center, Sobanuza inkiko, Toll-free lines owned by different justice institutions and their partners.
Other ICT solutions are using E-mail to request legal and justice services from service providers for example sobanuzainkiko.gov.rw.
Inspector General of Courts at Judiciary of Rwanda, Angeline Rutazana said that 75000 cases were registered using IT systems in various courts from March to December 2020, putting out that it was a period when the country was experiencing total lockdown.
Among them, 14675 cases were tried in courts in the period between 16 March to 31 May 2020.
RIB also has a strategy to prevent COVID-19.
“When Covid-19 spread to Rwanda, we returned efforts to sensitizing people about criminality using social media platforms, we minimized exercises of meeting people physically,” Jeannot K. Ruhunga, Secretary-General of RIB said.
Ruhunga further said that with five toll-free hotlines, the investigation body was able to get complaints and reports that are later dispatched to different investigation stations.