US Department of State Human Rights Report: Rwanda 2012

"The law provides for a presumption of innocence, but government officials did not always adhere to this in practice. The law requires defendants be informed promptly and in detail of the charges in a language they comprehend; however, judges postponed numerous hearings because this had not occurred. Defendants have the right to a fair trial without undue delay, but there were an insufficient number of prosecutors, judges, and courtrooms to hold trials within a reasonable period of time. In the ordinary court system (vice military and community justice “gacaca” courts) the law provides for public trials, although courts closed proceedings in cases involving minors, to protect witnesses, or at the request of defendants. Judges, rather than juries, try all cases. Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of choice, although few could afford private counsel. Minors are guaranteed legal representation by law. The law does not provide for an attorney at state expense for indigent defendants; however, the Rwandan Bar Association and 36 other member organizations of the Legal Aid Forum provided legal assistance to some indigent defendants, although they lacked the resources to provide defense counsel to all in need. The law requires that defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, and judges routinely granted requests to extend preparation time. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access government-held evidence relevant to their cases, but courts did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to be present at trial, confront witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The law protects defendants from being compelled to testify or confess guilt, and judges generally respected that right during trial. However, there were numerous reports SSF coerced suspects into confessing guilt and of judges accepting such confessions despite defendants’ protests. The law provides for the right to appeal, and this provision was respected."

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