Rwanda prosecution to release detainees due to COVID-19
Rwanda’s public prosecution (NPPA) has directed all chief prosecutors around the country in a bid to decongest detention centres.
In his letter to prosecutors dated of April 1, Prosecutor-General Aimable Havugayiremye said the congestion in detentions keeps increasing due to the fact that courts are not operating.
The Government announced a two-week lockdown on March 21 but the Cabinet extended yesterday the lockdown by more 15 days ending on April 19 as the country tightens the fight against the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Courts are among institutions which halted functions amid the lockdown.
Prosecutor-General’s directive indicates that a screening of detainees must end on April 3 in all police stations all over the country, putting detainees in three categories depending on their charges in order to determine who will be released while those with serious crime charges and recidivists will remain detained awaiting trial when courts re-open operations.
The directive indicates that category one features those accused of serious offenses including murder, corruption and related offenses, defilement, drug trafficking, human trafficking and recidivism. Detainees falling in this category will not be released. Category two will feature those who have to pay fines and be released without undergoing a trial.
Category three groups those to be granted a conditional release and await trial when courts re-open up functions but won’t be detained anymore. These include detained women who have babies, those who can pay a bond and cause no harm to the society once they are released, those whose offenses can be settled by paying compensation and reconcile with the offended, offenses related to family disputes which can be settled by reconciling the two parties, detained under-age people whose release causes no danger to society, those whose charges lack sufficient evidence and any other reason prosecutors would find significant for a detainee release.
The directive states that the screening is jointly conducted by prosecutors and officers from Rwanda Investigation Bureau and Rwanda National Police.
Speaking to Voice of America yesterday, the NPPA Spokesman Faustin Nkusi said the release of detainees will commence as soon as the report of screening is completed and his office is yet to determine the number of those who will be released and those to remain in custodies.