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Human Rights Watch report was ‘objective’

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Kigali: The recent report by Human Rights Watch rapping government and Parliament for compromising the judiciary is not in any way biased, its Lead author Alison Des Forges has said.

The Washington-based group said in the report last month that reforms in the judicial sector remain lacking and do not guarantee fair trails.

Coming at a time when the UN court for Rwanda and several European countries are to decide on transferring some Genocide suspects, Human Rights Watch said “at this time, the independence of the courts and the assurance of fair trial rights in Rwanda are insufficient to permit extradition or transfer”.   

Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama dismissed the 113-page report accusing Ms. Des Forges – the HRW Africa Expert - of using the organization for her own selfish agenda.   

“We invited her here for discussions but she could not stand by her regular assertions - instead telling us that she also gets that information from other people”, he said then on State radio.  

However, Ms. Des Forges says the report clearly recognizes the fact that government has made significant progress in many technical aspects of the delivery of justice.

“President Kagame and any other Rwandan official (and any Rwandan citizen including yourself, of course) need only go to our website (www.hrw.org) and read the report to see that we do in fact deliver an objective appraisal of progress made in the judicial system as well as of areas where more progress is needed”, she told RNA.

In the spotlight from the campaign group as well, is parliament that recently amended some 50 articles of the constitution introducing four-year assessments for Judges. These previously had lifetime tenure.

Lawmakers argued that the move would make the judges more accountable to avoid cases where they would act with impunity knowing they are untouchable. HRW said judicial independence could be compromised by such frequent review.

“I’m sure you know that Rwandan judicial experts themselves held that it was essential for judges to have lifetime mandates (except for Supreme Court judges) unless they were found guilty of some form of judicial misconduct”, Ms. Des Forges said.

“This is why they provided for lifetime tenure for judges in the laws passed only four years ago.”

At conference on judicial reform in Kigali – which she attended, it was held that government continues working on writing laws ‘clearly and precisely’.

That certainly will be helpful to judges and prosecutors trying to deliver justice, she said.
 

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