Incomplete files, delays in prosecution push up numbers in prisons

Tuesday April 26 2022
Overcrowded prisons

Congestion in prisons has been blamed on slow investigations and delayed prosecutions in courts. Photo: Cyril Ndegeya

By Ange Iliza

Incomplete investigations and delayed prosecutions are contributing to growing population of inmates in the country's 12 prisons. A recent prison population list by the World Prison Brief ranked Rwanda second with the highest prison population rate in the world.

The report indicate that there are 580 prisoners per 100,000 people after the United States which has 629 prisoners per 100,000 the national population.

Munyemfura (not real name) has been following up on his son’s case for the past one and a half year. His son was arrested over drug abuse and fraud, after which he spent two weeks at a local police station and was later moved to Mageragere Prison as he waited for the prosecution to take his fi le to the court.

Munyemfura, a Gasabo district resident, claims that his son is innocent and he has never seen him use drugs. He believes his son was set up and will be freed once investigations are complete. He says if anyone was to investigate the case, his son would have been released from the prison. But it has been over a year and there is no hope that he will be tried any time soon.

This is just one of over 1,500 cases that remain dormant despite the accused spending years in prison without conviction. For instance, in the months of July to December last year, 33 percent of the cases submitted to the public prosecutor were not tried. The conviction rate and cases won by the prosecution, however, reached 94 percent, according to data by the National Public Prosecution Authority.

Human rights organisations now claim that the country's justice system priorities imprisonment over justice and correction. They say prosecution and investigative authorities rush to put people in prisons which leads to overpopulation in prisons.


There are 12 prisons in the country with the capacity to accommodate 48,000 inmates but they currently accommodate almost 80,000 inmates, 136 percent overcrowded. In 2021, there were 79,099 people in the 12 prisoners.

The most prevalent crimes include intentional assault and battery, the , child defilement and drugs tracking.

“Putting people in prisons seems to be the number one priority for institutions such as the Rwanda Investigation Bureau and the police...” Said Emmanuel Safari, executive secretary of CLADHO.