Currently, in Rwanda, the judiciary is being criticised for denying politician and activist Paul Rusesabagina his rights to fair legal treatment. Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.’ This means that everyone has the right to be judged by a fair judicial system, which has no bias either towards or against the person before the trial starts.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A FAIR JUDICIAL SYSTEM?
Countries rely on their judicial system to deal with crimes, disputes and many other civil affairs. A fair judicial system is necessary to ensure that the judgement is unbiased and supported by sufficient evidence. This helps achieve justice in the country. In addition, people are more likely to obey laws if they feel that the judicial system is there to support them if they ever have a problem. An unbiased judicial system helps citizens trust the government and believe that it has their interests at heart.
THE SITUATION IN RWANDA
Paul Rusesabagina, a politician and human rights activist, was arrested upon arrival to Kigali last summer. After this, he suffered an enforced disappearance at the hands of the authorities. This is when the authorities take away someone’s liberty and hide that person’s location by kidnapping them. Torture and further human rights violations often happen as a consequence of enforced disappearances.
A leaked call shows that the government was directly involved in Rusesabagina’s enforced disappearance. Because of this, many people worldwide doubt that he will receive a fair trial. This is because the government has already committed human rights violations against him, and thus the government may be biased against him. People are worried that the victims he has been supporting will be deprived of their legal rights too. These victims are fellow human rights protesters and people oppressed by authorities.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO ACHIEVE A FAIR JUDICIAL SYSTEM?
As Article 10 in the Declaration of Human Rights says, the judicial system must be independent. This means that although it is funded by taxes, it is not controlled by the government. This ensures that a government cannot use the legal system to abuse its power. In countries where the judiciary is controlled by the government, external pressure can help force the governments to allow an independent legal system, ensuring this important right for citizens.