APPLICABILITY OF THE RULE OF LAW ANDRIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL IN RWANDA
1.0 General Background
This work is guided by the quote “the entire judicial process should not be looked at as an event or even be perceived as a procedure but rather a serious undertaking that ensures the country is governed by the rule of law”(Paul Kagame Judicial Year 2017/18).
Fair trials are the only way to prevent miscarriages of justice and are an essential part of a just society. Every person accused of a crime should have their guilt or innocence determined by a fair and effective legal process. But it is not all about protecting the rights of accused, It also makes societies safer and stronger. Without fair trials, citizens may end up being victimized, without fair trials, trust in government and its institutional rule of law collapses. In a fair trial, parties before court are treated equal to defend themselves and present evidence. They must be heard impartially and without any prejudice. There must be a neutral and impartial judge who would ensure that all procedural requirement have been met and keep in mind the rights of the parties in the trial.
2. Role of the states in respect of “The Right to a Fair Trial”
As the rule of law is one of the Constitutional tenets to ensure accountability to the law, fairness in the application of law, avoidance of arbitrariness and foster legal transparency. In this aspect that States are obliged to respect “The Right to a Fair Trial’ Article 6 of the European convention of Human Rights illustrates very well the determination of civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against the accused, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
It mentions that the Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights: (a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; (b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense; (c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require; (d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him; (e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
According to the European Court of Human Rights, thousands of cases of unfair trials - including many which led to the imprisonment of an innocent person. People have used the European Convention on Human Rights to get a retrial and to make sure that governments develop proper rules to avoid similar miscarriages of justice.1
The Right to a Fair and Public Hearing and to Public Pronouncement of the Judgment must consider absence of direct or indirect influence, pressure, or intimidation or intrusion from whatever side or for whatever motive, Look at hostile attitude from public, or support for one party in the courtroom that is tolerated by the court, racial bias of jury. In addition , there must be no secrecy, judges must be under public scrutiny and all performed under Public hearings and pronouncements of judgments, first instance proceedings should be conducted orally with a public hearing and in some of the cases the Media and public may be excluded for reasons of morals, public order, or national security in a democratic society.
3. Criminal procedure vis-à-vis the right to a fair trial
The Purpose of the law Nº 30/2013 of 24/05/2013 relating to the code of criminal procedure, governs investigation and prosecution intended to punish acts constituting violation of the penal law.
3.1 Arrest and detention of suspects
Article 37 states that if an offense is punishable with imprisonment of at least two (2) years or if there are serious grounds for believing that a suspect may escape or his/her identity is unknown or regarded as doubtful, a Judicial Police Officer may, for the purposes of investigation, arrest and detain the suspect in a relevant custody facility if there are serious grounds for suspecting that he/she has committed the offense. The Judicial Police Officer shall prepare a statement of arrest and detention in four (4) copies, one of which is immediately sent to the competent Public Prosecution and the other kept in the investigation file while of the two remaining ones, one is given to the person in charge of the custody facility and another to the suspect.
1 https://www.coe.int/en/web/impact-convention- human-rights/right-to-a-fair-trial