IBJ began to work in Rwanda in 2009 and established Rwanda Bridges to Justice (RBJ) as a local autonomous chapter in 2014. A Defender Resource Center was opened in Kigali and acts as the hub for our activities, which include building a supportive community of legal professionals, conducting training for defense lawyers and judges, providing pro bono legal representation to the most vulnerable, including women, children, and the poor, and organizing roundtables and rights awareness campaigns to galvanize support for comprehensive legal reform.

Impact in numbers

The Government of Rwanda has demonstrated its commitment to legal rights, with signed international conventions and domestic laws that safeguard the rights of the accused. However, protection of the rights of the accused and early access to competent legal counsel remains a challenge in Rwanda. A 2014 report from the United Nations Development Program states that only one lawyer is available for every 9,800 people in Rwanda. The Legal Aid Forum estimates that 80% of defendants in criminal trials do not receive representation or legal advice of any kind. Without skilled lawyers, the accused are likely to experience lengthy pre-trial detention, further taxing the country’s prison system.

  • 110 lawyers on RBJ Task Force
  • 965 lawyers trained.
  • 5,260 cases represented.
  • 42 judges trained.
  • 177 justice officials trained through roundtables.
  • 5,499,500 people reached through rights awareness campaigns.

Systems Change

RBJ has Memorandums of Understandings with the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), the Rwanda Bar Association (RBA), the National Prosecution Public Authority (NPPA), Dignité en Détention (DiDé), Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR), Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (Ipeace), the Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD), and the Rwandan Association for the Defense of Human Rights(ARDHO).

In addition to that, it created meaningful partnerships with the Ministry of Justice, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), the University of Rwanda, School of Law, the National Commission of Human Rights, RCN Justice & Democracy, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

High impact successes include:

  • Along with the Rwandan Bar Association, lawyers from Rwanda Bridges to Justice (RBJ) are the only lawyers nationwide permitted entry into detention facilities. Since lockdown, RBJ conducts visits to detention facilities three times a week.
  • 40 lawyers were trained in one session in 2016 in Kigali. The aim of the session was to refine and strengthen the practical criminal defense skills of lawyers so they are better able to safeguard the due process rights of accused persons.

Defender Resources

In Rwanda, IBJ provides training, tools, manuals and eLearning, developed with our partners, funded through grants, and resourced through pro-bono assistance. On April 14, RBJ lawyers went live online representing 7 cases in the new online criminal justice system that began April 9. 

What we need

There are many ways to get involved, to help make a long term difference. Please get in touch.