By Daniel Sabiiti
From bank fraud to cyber-crime, drug trafficking to terrorism, murder for passion or money to wildlife poaching and smuggling, criminals are increasingly using modern science and Rwanda national Police has decided to acquire cutting edge skills and equipment to match so as to stay ahead of the game.
The journey has started with Rwanda parliament passing a new draft law on forensic evidence-this comes after the government started the process to create the Forensics directorate a few years back.
The Rwandan parliament has passed a new draft law on forensic evidence that will enable Rwandans to now revisit criminal cases which may have not had sufficient scientific evidence during prosecution.
The law provides a legal framework of establishing a National Forensic Laboratory which will see Rwandans access scientific-based evidence to prove their cases and defense in criminal and tribunal proceedings.
The law was voted by over 60 members of parliament during a plenary session at the parliament today September 6, 2016 after it was presented by the Commission chairman Hon. Zeno Mutimura
With a law on forensic, this means that Rwanda will now have a fully-fledged National Forensic Laboratory (NFL) to replace the already establish Kigali Forensic laboratory which has been operating under the Police.
Regrettably, even with the existence of constitutional laws such as the Penal Code Act, Defilement Act, and other laws, crime occurrence in Uganda continues to manifest various ways by both first time criminals as well as serial convicts. The courts continue to have big backlog while handling cases which to a great extent is attributed to lack of evidence while dealing with highly sensitive cases of crime.
Though the above forensic lab has been operational, there has not been any law in place to enable Rwandans access forensic evidence with ease and some forensic examinations have had been costly as a result of being sent to Europe and within the region.
Producing deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly known as DNA results, has been one of the most challenging element of justice in Rwanda, especially when it comes to parental rights of a child, and this has seen some cases being judged without sufficient scientific evidence.
For example a DNA test would cost about Rwf800, 000 to ship a single sample to Germany or the UK and about Rwf500.000 within the regional laboratory and this cost would have to be met by the residents.
This will be a ‘relief to some Rwandans who have been prosecuted over allegations for attempted rape cases which is common among community based conflicts which has caused a spat among residents in the past years.
“I have evidenced a case of a man called Gatete in Butare town in 2007- who was sent to jail after his competitors wanted to have a construction contract handed to them. They forged a rape case and connived it with a deaf girl. He was later released but the contract was gone” says one Angelique Mugwaneza, a former resident of Huye district
While some have already been prosecuted without scientific evidence, the Rwandan Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Hon. Johnston Busingye says that this is a step that will change the justice system.
“What we have been doing is rudimental. What we want now is to be accurate in our justice system and set a standard for the rest of the continent, even when this will require a lot of capacity and finance and training” Busingye said
The law also brings on board a seven person advisory council which will have a 30 percent women representation according to the gender policy in the country.
Statistics on criminal cases by April this year indicated an rise in crime to 1,462 from 1,195 that were registered in January with 580 being financial, 414 defilement; 204 cases were related to Genocide ideology while the rest were related to violence and assaults.
While some hospitals in Rwanda can do postmortems, the Rwanda Police Hospital in Kacyiru is the only local facility that can run postmortem test at the “highest level”
The National Forensic Laboratory, which is under construction, will be operational by late 2017 according to police and Government has invested Rwf7 billion in the project from the initial Rwf6 billion, when it was supposed to be up and running by 2015.
Sources indicate that Rwanda has sent a number of people who will work in the laboratory are about to finish training in Germany.
The current scientific laboratory – Kigali Forensic Laboratory – conducts only DNA sampling, document examination and fingerprint analysis.
Once complete, the new multi-million dollar laboratory will offer about ten forensic disciplines including DNA, toxicology and ballistics.