The Rwandan government is racing to meet the deadline for the transition of pre-trial judicial investigations activities from the Rwanda judicial Police to the newly established Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB).
The one-year transitional period to establish RIB is ending on April 7, and the Ministry of Justice, which will supervise the bureau, has vowed to meet the deadline.
“The Rwanda Investigation Bureau will be fully operational in the next two to three weeks as we are working to make this happen,” said Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye.
Mr Busingye made the commitment while appearing before the Senate last week, after being summoned. However, he could not provide details on what has been done so far and the remaining work to be completed before the bureau is operational.
A number of current judicial police officers are expected to be transferred to the bureau.
However, the Prime Minister’s Order determining the procedure for their transfer and that of property attached to their department is yet to be issued. This raises doubt about having a functional bureau within the stated time.
The leadership of the bureau has also not yet been appointed. The RIB secretary-general and the deputy secretary would be appointed through a presidential order as stipulated by law.
In the past, the lack of or delay in enacting presidential and ministerial orders has hindered the establishment of approved government organs — with some taking years to be operational.
How RIB would function
The law establishing RIB provides that it will carry out investigations on criminal cases under the supervision and instruction of the National Public Prosecution Authority.
Legal practitioners expect RIB to carry out investigations in a professional manner.
“We expect to get quality investigations by RIB, given that its officers will mainly focus on administration of justice and are directly answerable to the prosecution unlike the judicial police who were attached to a security organ,” said Janvier Bayingana, an advocate and law lecturer.
During the preliminary discussions before the establishment of the bureau, the Ministry of Justice had said RIB would recruit its own personnel, and enrol them in special training.
Currently, police officers with the rank of sergeant and above is qualified to be a judicial police officer, regardless of their knowledge and skills in carrying out judicial investigations.
To solve the problem of a skills gap, the Rwanda Law Enforcement Specialised Academy was established. Its primary mission was to prepare and provide courses on professional skills for Rwanda National Police and the Rwanda Investigation Bureau.
Sources say that RIB will take on the role of former judicial police officers.
“All judicial police agreements concluded between Rwanda National Police and national and international organisations in connection with crime prevention, control and investigation will continue to be respected by RIB,” according to the law establishing the bureau.
The law also authorises RIB officials “to use firearms and other security devices” necessary to perform their mission.