8 January 2023
The Ministry of Justice will on Tuesday, launch the implementation of new policies for criminal justice and alternative dispute resolution. Approved by the cabinet last year, the two policies are looked at as key mechanisms that will inform various changes in regards to how justice is rendered in the country.Here for example, the criminal justice policy, among other things, aims at increasing the use of non-custodial means of handling detainees and convicts, and thus it is expected to make room for the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) bracelets, as well as community service and fines as substitutes for detention. The policy also seeks to make Rwanda’s prison system more corrective and rehabilitative than punitive. This will be done by ensuring that prison officers have sufficient knowledge to make a good impact on the inmates so that by the time they come out of prison, they have skills, knowledge and a better attitude. On the other hand, the alternative dispute resolution policy seeks to prioritise non-litigious mechanisms of resolving conflicts. As part of this, the justice ministry may make it mandatory for specific cases to be handled by mediators (Abahuza), conciliators (Abunzi) or arbitrators instead of being directly referred to the courts of law. Conciliators are individuals who offer advice to conflicting parties concerning how to amicably settle a dispute. These often prescribe a solution for the issue in question and leave it to the parties. As for mediators, they are people who primarily work as facilitators of negotiations between conflicting parties and do not advise on the merits unless in a difficult negotiation, or in case the parties ask them to work out a solution for them. Arbitrators are judges who work outside of the public court setting. During arbitration, a dispute is submitted to the arbitrators, they hear it and make a binding decision. These are mainly used to settle commercial disputes. Meanwhile, with the alternative dispute resolution policy, the justice ministry aims at enhancing amicable dispute resolution mechanisms, to promote the culture of problem-solving in families and reinforce cordial settlement of disputes. In November last year, reports from the judiciary indicated that the monetary value of cases that were successfully resolved through mediation amounted to over Rwf11billlion. That was the first time that judicial officials quantified the economic value of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, specifically Court Annexed Mediation (CAM) and mediation done by courts. Mediation is specifically used for settling civil, commercial, labour and administrative cases. Such policies are part of the country’s efforts to implement the National Strategy for Transformation (2017-2024).
Source: The New Times (Kigali)