Covid-19: Rwanda courts go online during lockdown

Thursday April 23 2020

People take part in a video-link meeting. Rwanda suspended courts services following a lockdown instituted in late March due to coronavirus. FILE PHOTO | NMG


As Rwanda strives to prevent further spread of coronavirus infections, the judiciary has resumed court operations, though online.

Harisson Mutabazi, the Judicial spokesperson told The EastAfrican that courts will use videoconferencing platforms with virtual trials limited to Kigali and a few other courts upcountry.

“Video conference is good but it is limited in Kigali, Ngoma in Eastern Province, Huye in South and Musanze in North, whereas Skype can be accessible everywhere but the ultimate aim is having the video conference technology such that even trials can be conducted in case coronavirus is still on,” said Mr Mutabazi.

Kigali suspended courts services following a lockdown instituted in late March due to coronavirus.

This week, Nyarugenge Intermediate Court 17 in Kigali and Rusizi Intermediate Court in Western Province delivered their decisions virtually.

“It is to protect detainees from the risks of coronavirus, but it has also proved cost effective because there is no transportation of prisoners,” Mr Mutabazi said.


Other courts that have begun using videoconferencing are Gasabo and Kicukiro primary courts in Kigali.

“We have not got the number of all the cases that will get courts decisions around the country, but they are many,” added Mr Mutabazi.

“It is just the beginning of the exercise and will continue for all qualifying criminal suspects to get court decisions until the end of the lockdown” added Mr Mutabazi.

Early April Rwanda released 1,182 prisoners on bail terms to ease congestion in prisons and tame the spread of the virus.

Those freed had sentences below six months’ prison terms. They are now required to report to the prosecution once a week.

Rwanda as of Wednesday had reported 153 coronavirus cases, 84 recoveries and no fatality, according to the Health ministry.

On Saturday, the government extended the nationwide lockdown to April 30 in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.