Kigali, 29 August, 2007 (FH) - The conference of Rwandan lawyers has been held since Monday in Kigali, a meeting on the rights of defence and the right to defence which permitted to showcase the insufficiencies of legal aid.     

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However by opening this conference Monday at the Novotel hotel, Mr. Sam Rugege, Vice- President of the Supreme Court, recalled that the Rwandan Constitution guarantees the right to defence. Quoting article 18 of the Constitution he affirmed that the right to be informed on the nature and the substance of the charges, the right to defence is an inalienable right. But this constitutional guarantee is often flawed in practice.
For the Chairman of the Bar, Jean Bosco Kazungu, that is due to the inexperience of the majority of the legal parties, with the insufficiency of the means necessary for the respect of the rights of defence and ignorance of their justiciable rights.
"As long as a person is not convicted, they are presumed innocent. If they are defended and convicted, at least justice is fair ", insisted Zarir Merat head of the Lawyer Without Borders mission. In addition to representatives of the Rwandan justice system, this conference, organized with the support of Lawyer Without Borders, also includes the participation of the Bars of Belgium, Switzerland, Burundi, the DRC and representatives of the diplomatic and consular corps.
In presenting Tuesday the situation of legal assistance and legal aid to the population Christine Tuyisenge, of the Forum of legal assistance and the Haguruka association, showed that supply is far lower than the demand. According to her, "the statistics prove that there is 1 lawyer for 40 000 citizens and that only 10% of the population can afford the services of a lawyer".
At the end of a debate the obstacles were enumerated : illiteracy of the population, inaccessibility of the rural zones, a common vision of service providers and poverty of vulnerable individuals. A participant, however, asked to define the methods of granting the certificate of vulnerability.
Mr. Apollinaire of the National University of Rwanda proposed that his senior students can give legal assistance under the supervision of a professor-lawyer.
The general report points to the education of the population of the laws of the mechanisms of collaboration between people receiving benefits of the services as an improvement of legal assistance.
 This meeting ends Wednesday. It precedes the ceremony of the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Bar of Kigali

© Hirondelle News Agency