Rwanda: State Attorneys Challenge Petition on RIB Searches
State attorneys have provided a response to the petition submitted to the Supreme Court by a Kigali-based lawyer. The petitioner, Edward Murangwa, is contesting the constitutionality of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB)’s authority to conduct searches of individuals’ homes and premises without a court-issued warrant.
During the hearing held on Wednesday, May 24, at the Supreme Court in Kigali, Murangwa’s legal team elaborated on the grounds for the petition, emphasizing that conducting searches without a warrant from the judiciary goes against the constitution, which assigns the judiciary the responsibility of safeguarding people’s rights and freedoms.
According to the legislation establishing RIB, the bureau is granted the power to conduct investigative searches on individuals or premises without a warrant if there are reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity.
Murangwa’s lawyers argued that investigative searches significantly impact human rights and, therefore, RIB should obtain permission from the judiciary before conducting such operations.
In response to the petition, the state attorneys representing the government in the case, Spéciose Kabibi and Petronille Kayitesi, informed the judges that although the government’s branches are independent, they complement one another and operate with mutual trust.
They emphasized that the current approach to conducting searches facilitates the investigative process, as they highlighted resource limitations in Rwanda that may prevent the judiciary from issuing search warrants, as seen in other countries where judges are employed for specific duties beyond trials.
Furthermore, the state attorneys explained that in some countries, search warrants are merely a formality, with judges sometimes presenting investigators with blank documents to fill in the operation’s details.
However, Murangwa contested this practice, arguing that it does not adhere to due process
“A search warrant is of utmost importance in the administration of justice. If a judge simply hands it over to investigators to fill in the details, that is not justice. True justice considers both sides,” he emphasized.
Murangwa stated that if the judiciary issues search warrants, it provides an opportunity for judges to provide investigators with guidelines on how to conduct search operations and establish limits that must not be exceeded.
“A search warrant is not a fishing expedition. It should have clear boundaries to prevent investigators from repeatedly searching a location without justification,” he added.
The court is set to deliver its verdict on July 21.