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Comprehend The application for review of final court decisions due to injustice
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1. Introduction

The Government of Rwanda undertook to build a State based on the rule of law . In the pursuit of this endeavor, it put in place various organs to ensure achievement of that goal. It is in this context that the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003 revised in 2015, in its article 139 has instituted the Office of the Ombudsman whose mandate includes preventing and fighting injustice, corruption and related offences in public and private institutions.

In fighting injustice, many mechanisms are undertaken putting into consideration the various forms of injustice. This article therefore illustrates how injustice found in the final court decision is addressed and the advantages thereof. This modality is called: Application for review of final court decision due to injustice.

2. Application for review of final court decision due to injustice; a positive uniqueness of Rwanda

Rwanda is a country that always strives to find efficient solutions to the problems that impede the safety of its citizens. It is in this line that several mechanisms such as Gacaca Courts were put in place and they have been very productive in trying the cases related to the crimes of Genocide committed against Tutsi in 1994 while the International Community thought that justice was exclusively to be rendered by ordinary courts. Other examples include the establishment of Mediation Committee which enables the people to settle the disputes without necessarily going to the courts, Girinka Munyarwanda program, Umuganda-Communuity Public works, etc….

It is in the same context that there arose the idea of addressing the injustice found in final court decisions. Normally, in case ordinary and extraordinary procedures of appeal have been exhausted, there is no other possible procedure of appeal even when there is a clear injustice in handing down the decision. Rwanda could not just let such injustice pass and consequently put in place the procedure for re-adjudication of such cases.

3. Competent organ to apply for review of final court decision due to injustice

In the interest of justice, the Organic Law N° 03/2012/OL of 13/06/2012 determining the organization, functioning and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in its article 79 and the Law N° 76/2013 of 11/9/2013 determining the mission, powers, organization and functioning of the Office of the Ombudsman in its article 15 vest in the Office of the Ombudsman the power to petition the Supreme Court for applications for review of a final court judgment rendered by ordinary, commercial and military courts when there is a likelihood of injustice in the decision.

4. Grounds for application for review of a final decision due to injustice

Article 81 of the aforementioned Organic Law determining the organization, functioning and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court provides that the review of a final decision due to injustice can be applied for on any of the following grounds:

1° when there is unquestionable evidences of corruption, favoritism or nepotism that were relied upon in the judgment and that were unknown to the losing party during the course of the proceedings;

2° when there are provisions and irrefutable evidence that the judge ignored in rendering the judgment;

3° when the judgment cannot be executed due to the drafting of its content.

Comprehensibly, it is not every final court decision to be reviewed due to injustice since the application must be based on few and limited aforementioned grounds. Moreover, application for review of final court decision due to injustice is not entitled to a party which was entitled other ordinary and extraordinary procedures to appeal but which did not exercise this right within the time limit prescribed by law.

5. Procedure for application for review of a final decision due to injustice

As already mentioned, the Office of the Ombudsman was vested with the power of application for review of a final court decision due to injustice. However, the Office of the Ombudsman does not do so on its own initiative since it performs those responsibilities upon the request of a citizen or a moral person who lost the case and think that in handing down the decision, there had been injustice that fall under the grounds explained above (1° - 3°).

Article 79 of the aforementioned Organic Law determining the organization, functioning and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court provides that when, the final decision is made and there is evidence of injustice referred to under Article 81 (1° - 3°) of this Organic Law, parties to the case shall inform the Office of the Ombudsman of the matter. In case the Office of the Ombudsman finds that there had been no injustice in handing down the decision, it so informs the complainant.

In case the Office of the Ombudsman finds that there had been injustice in handing down the decision, it sends to the President of the Supreme Court a letter accompanied by a report on the issue and evidence of such injustice and request to re-adjudicate the case.

The President of the Supreme Court decides basing on the report of the General Inspectorate of Courts.

Article 80 of the aforementioned Organic Law explains that the President of the Supreme Court considers the report of the General Inspectorate of Courts and decides whether the case is to be re-adjudicated. In case he/she decides the re-adjudication, he/she sends the file to the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court for recording in the relevant registry, and he/she sets the date of hearing and determines the bench. In case the President of the Supreme Court considers that the case will not be re-adjudicated, he/she notifies the Office of the Ombudsman.

The bench must be composed of at least three (3) judges but if the decision subject to application for review was rendered by the Supreme Court, the bench must be composed of at least five (5) judges, those who made the challenged verdict being excluded .

The procedure pursued in examining the request of a complainant who alleges to have suffered from unjust court decision, secures the needed due diligence in order to make the Supreme Court decide the re-adjudication of the case in which there had been the injustice in handing down the decision.

6. Effectiveness

Application for review of a final decision due to injustice has been very productive in rendering justice.

Examples include :

-  A case of a judge who sentenced a person with unlawful penalty;
-  A case of a judge who ruled on the subject matter that has been definitively decided before;
-  A case of a court judgment that made one person an owner of a house and made at the same time another person an owner of the land where the said house is built while no one can own a house on the plot belonging to a different person.
Though application for review of court judgments due to injustice is a long process, it results in giving the solution in a sustainable manner since in case there had been injustice in handing down the decision, the Supreme Court does not only handle the injustice by rectifying the committed error but also by giving the precedent on the issues that are similar to those that led to injustice.

This modality also makes judges be duly diligent in adjudicating cases and render fair justice; and learn from the decisions taken by the Supreme Court when performing their duties. It also emphasizes a smooth collaboration and complementarity of organs especially the Supreme Court and the Office of the Ombudsman in rendering the justice.

7. Conclusion

As explained above, application for review of a final decision due to injustice is a solution to a persisting injustice within the cases that have been definitively decided (acquired powers of a decided case).

In exercising the powers vested in the Supreme Court and in the Office of the Ombudsman with regard to the application for review of a final decision due to injustice, both these organs are complementary to the extent that neither of them is detrimental nor influential and no organ can go ultra vires, bearing in mind that the Judiciary is an independent branch of government. The Office of the Ombudsman does not order the re-adjudication of the case, on the contrary, it so requests. The Supreme Court can decide on merit or not as illustrated above. The Office of the Ombudsman serves as the channel through which people get access to justice because legally practicing, the court does not petition itself and this procedure ought not to be availed to a party so long as it is exercised when all other procedures of appeal have been exhausted.

As explained in the introduction of this article, the complementarity between the Supreme Court and the Office of the Ombudsman is in the interest of justice in order to seek the solutions to the problems raised by the people.

Office of the Ombudsman

 
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