Justice Aime Karimunda Muyoboke made the remarks on October 13, 2023 during the awarding of the winners of the 2023 Moot Court Competitions , which attracted law student teams from five universities in Rwanda.
Muyoboke said that while there are some challenges of professional practices in the sector, the moot courts are a very important tool in preparing the future judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
“These competitions help to shape the future judiciary, to witness the professional practice in its reality so as to add on what they have learnt in law school and get prepared for the practice,” Muyoboke said.
Muyoboke said that through the moot courts, the students are challenged to keep learning about various subjects in law practice by reviewing their notes and interacting with judges (present) in order to identify more gaps that need to be covered or addressed.
For example, Muyoboke showed how a judge can implore (consult) court council in times when they are not sure of the decision they are making especially if it is complescent.
“We cannot imagine having complescent judges, prosecutors and lawyers in international humanitarian law,” Muyoboke said.
The remarks come at a time when some court cases have shown complescence among judges, prosecution based on circumstantial evidence and lack of in depth investigation in some cases leading to a back-n-forth court process.
Such cases have resulted in a backlog of court cases and the number of appeals, and of recent this challenge has seen the Judiciary resort to establishing alternative justice through arbitration, and plea bargaining as ways forward.
Judicial statistics in 2020 show that there are 318 judges and 235 registrars countrywide.
This number is significantly lower than the volume of cases, and it has, in some ways, led to case backlog and prolonged trial durations.
For instance, the cases increased from 37,116 in 2005 to 91,381 in 2022. This means that, on average, a judge has to handle 49 cases per month.
In the meantime, law students of the University of Rwanda (UR) and INES Ruhengeri University were respectively declared winners and runner-up of 7th edition moot court competitions on the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
This year’s edition organised by the International Committee of the RedCross (ICRC)-Rwanda and RedCross Rwanda had a focus on the environment- which is consequently affected alongside human rights due to armed conflicts, as seen today in Ukraine, Gaza, Syria and Mozambique.
Justice Muyoboke said that it is a new field of law to merge international humanitarian law and Human Rights but both have a direct relation to the environment especially when the behavior of beligilents and weapons used have an impact on the environment.
He commended the moot courts as a transfer of knowledge and skills needed to address current challenges but also raise awareness for human rights and protecting the environment under the IHL which came into existence in 1949.
“Tomorrow you will be sitting in the chairs which judges are seated in. This means that all the efforts, investment, and support should not be worthless because this is being done in partnership with the government and partners to breed better leaders,” Muyoboke said.
The ICRC Rwanda Legal Advisor, Julien Namahoro said that the reason they organise such competitions is to improve the performance of the judiciary especially in upholding the IHL and this has seen some of the alumni grow into national judges and prosecutors.
For example, national prosecutor Dr. Charity Wibabara who was a mooter as a student, a moot court judge as a lecturer of law at the University of Rwanda and now the coordinator of the International Crimes Protection at the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA).
United Nation Refugee (UNHCR) Country Representative in Rwanda, Ndèye Aissatou Masseck Ndiaye also commended Rwanda’s governance and said that the moot court approach saying will improve existing the government’s and UN efforts protecting and preserving environmental sanity even during conflict and hoped the next competition will tackle refugees.