Experts want action on unlawful detention

Tuesday January 28 2020


Some of the suspects accused of terrorism at the High Court of Rwanda in Kigali on February 15, 2017. PHOTO | FILE  

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Legal experts are pushing for an amendment to the current code of criminal procedures to enable victims of unlawful detention get appropriate remedies as stipulated in the law.

Article 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 2019 rests the burden of responsibility of unlawful detention to an individual who carried out the detention and not against the institution.

The law limits arrest and detention to five days, and a suspect must be present before court or immediately released if there are no serious grounds for a case.

The burden of proof also rests with victim who is expected to identify the perpetrator and prove that he/ she suffered damages due to the perpetrator’s actions.

Though legal experts argue that in practice it is difficult for the victims to prove the intentions of the detaining officer.

According to the 2017/2018 report by National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), there were 39 cases of unlawful detention with victims detained after the expiry of their statement of arrest and provisional warrant of arrest.


Between 2009 and 2016, NCHR said it received 462 complaints concerning unlawful detentions that were not granted compensations.

In an interview with Rwanda Today, Dr Tite Niyibizi, a lecturer at Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD) argued that identifying the particular person responsible for the unlawful detention can be difficult for a person who was unlawfully detained.

“For instance, the detainee can be transferred to different facilities or his detainers can be changed, which makes it almost impossible for the victim to identify who to sue for unlawful detention” Mr Niyibizi said.

In 2014, Michel Murara lodged a case in the High Court against Fred Mwebaze, a director at Kimironko prison for unlawfully detaining him for three months after the High Court had acquitted him.

The court ruled in favour of Mr Murara and ordered the defendant Mwebaze to pay Rwf300,000 in compensations. However MrMwebaze appealed the award at the Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling on ground that the High Court had no jurisdiction of cases of compensations for unlawful detention.

“In my research, I found so many people who were illegally detained but failed to get compensations. A special law on compensations for unlawful detentions would be helpful,” Mr Niyibizi said.

However, Andre Twahirwa, head of public legal aid and judgement execution at the Ministry of Justice, dismissed the argument that individuals who are unlawfully detained are not given rightful remedies.

“Lawyers know that Rwanda subscribes to International Convention on Prisoners’ Rights, International Convention on Civil and Political rights and many more which can help them defend their clients who claim unlawful detention,” he said.