PROJECT RELATED TO THE LEGAL ASSISTANCE OF 500 PRISONERS AND GENDER EQUALITY FOR PREGNANT WOMEN AND WOMEN LIVING WITH CHILDREN IN 3 RWANDAN PRISONS, PILOT PHASE
The Project related to the legal assistance of 500 prisoners and gender equality for pregnant women and women living with children in 5 Rwandan prisons, pilot phase is a nationwide project funded by UNDP Rwanda from November 2014 to November 2015. It concerns all Rwandan in terms of we worked with prisoners from different provinces and districts of the country.
Legal assistance is a part of The Justice, Reconciliation, and Law & Order Sector (JRLOS) Strategy which is a key component of the Government of Rwanda’s Economic Development Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS).
In this project funded by UNDP Rwanda Program, ARDHO’ strategy consisted in:
- Hearing attentively to the prisoners who voluntarily asked for legal assistance.
- Reinforcing the collaboration between different stakeholders in charge of justice criminal bearers: police, prosecution, RCS and courts and helping to see the errors committed at the beginning when the case was received at the judicial institution where some cases were treated in hurry.
- Encouraging prisoners to advocate for themselves.
- ARDHO needs to pass regularly after the project to see how things are going on in different prisons and working with authorities in charge of justice in different areas
- Sensitizing the all communities on their rights in terms and legal representation process or on how to access to legal services.
After carefully analyzing each case according to the criteria previously described in a tool, ARDHO’s technical team formally validated the cases to be legally assisted in terms of advocacy, legal representation, looking for proofs at different levels, looking for sanctions, reconstituting the facts in the prisoners’ files in need… The objectives of the projects became very clear and specific for prisoners and stakeholders who understood better their roles and responsibilities.
Different prisoners’ cases were categorized after the following processes:
- Be listened in order to get their freedom ;
- Know their remain period in prison ;
- Know how the justice is functioning in Rwanda ;
- Understand better how they were condemned ;
- Be prepared on their integration in their communities life after the prison ;
- Identify the strategies for being integrated in the community and social life;
- Know how they can repair their crimes without being pursued again after their prison.
Globally speaking, the above accomplished activities could be considered as a theoretical part of the project activities and this theoretical component has as main idea to sensitize and to develop a system where it could be easy to work and to reach
the expected results through the following practical activities:
- access to legal advice and legal representation by ARDHO’s jurists and lawyers;
- rule of law, the quality and accessibility of judicial services in general,
- performance of all sector institutions;
- business in respect of the functioning of the legal institutions, and in particular the commercial justice system;
2. Key Achievements
- The project has worked on the results basis and worked on facilitating access to justice to vulnerable prisoners: pregnant women in prisons, women living with children in prisons, prisoners who have already went over their date of going out the prisons, prisoners who don’t have any idea about their sanctions, prisoners who don’t know why they are in prisons, prisoners who are arrested for different crimes from the one they have committed, prisoners who have received different identities during the trials,….
- As already said, those differences pushed ARDHO to make a list of sensitive cases which constitute its main work in the quarter 4 as previously explained in the current report.
- The cases referred to the following facts were sometimes contradictory: confusion between condemnation at perpetuity and death penalty, prisoners, arrested since 1997, 2004, 2005, who don’t have any idea on their sanctions, prisoners who were refused to consult a specialist doctor, refusal to appeal or not information received for appeal when it was accepted by the courts, a minor was condemned at death penalty because he was suspected to have transmitted HIV to another minor. When arrested, he was 15 and now he is 29 and after ARDHO’s intervention and requesting the medical expertise, it was proven that the minor arrested is not suffering from HIV. The guy is preparing his defense for December. This project was constituted by the stories we can call all “fantastic and successful stories sometimes unimaginable”.
- All of the cases allowed ARDHO’s project coordination team and lawyers’ team to use the following strategies to reach the results we have obtained in the quarter 4: multiply visits in the field, writing letters, sharing the right information with the stakeholders and prisoners about some cases, sensitization on procedures and process to access to justice, …
- We worked on 818 prisoners instead of 500 % previously negotiated at the beginning of the project activities which means, we have reached 164%.
- The project has assisted in justice 258 women out of 500 beneficiaries planned for legal assistance and representation, more than 51.6% of the total.
- The remaining cases for women represent 6.2 % of the 500 prisoners. If we consider that all the beneficiaries should be women, this portion will constitute 49.4% and in that case, ARDHO was in obligation of recording more women to legally assist.
- All the results could be interpreted as every reader would like to give them their own significance.
- Closed cases are the ones which are closed at Prosecution level or at the Court in favour of the prisoner. They are closed because of lack of enough proofs for condemnation. The case profits to the prisoner who recovers his freedom. The judge or the prosecutor is still in right of asking the prisoner to come back to defend him/herself in case some new proofs of condemnation are given. If they have new proofs, the judgment can be reviewed.
- Cases legally represented are those for which ARDHO provided a lawyer to assist the prisoner during all the process and the trial.
- Cases to be legally represented are those which are already programmed at the court and their dates are well known and shared with the big public or with the concerned prisoner. In this type of case, ARDHO assigns him a lawyer to prepare him to the trial and to assist him in the court.
Cases still in prison for advocacy are the ones for which ARDHO is looking for proofs or for a negotiated solution or for missing documents we can find outside of the prison in the community, at CNLG or Prosecution.
Key achievements synthesis
|Won and closed||131||253||384|
|Programmed and pending||149||285||434|
 See annex 1: Tool for data analysis