The purpose of this module is to equip students with good knowledge in Judicial law. Students will be capable to know how the Rwandan justice system works and the laws governing the organisation, functioning and jurisdiction of courts in Rwanda.

The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003 revised in 2015 entrusts the Judiciary with the mission of protection of rights and freedom. The Judiciary is composed of ordinary Courts and specialised Courts. The High Council of the Judiciary is the Supreme governing organ of the Judiciary. It sets general guidelines governing the organisation of the Judiciary. The Judiciary is Independent and exercises financial and administrative autonomy. (See articles 43, 148, 149, 150, 151). 

The principles governing the Judiciary are the following:   

1° Justice is rendered in the name of the people and nobody may be a Judge in his or her own cause;

2° Court proceedings are conducted in public unless the Court determines that proceedings be held in camera in circumstances provided by the law;

3° Every judgement must indicate its basis, be written in its entirety, and delivered in public together with the grounds and the decision taken;

4° Court rulings are binding on all parties concerned the public authorities or individuals. They cannot be challenged except through procedures determined by law;

5° In exercising their judicial functions, judges at all times do it in accordance with the law and are independent from any power or authority.

Organisation and Competence of Courts

Article 152 of Rwanda constitution of 2003 as revised in 2015 provides that courts consist of Ordinary and Specialized Courts.

Ordinary Courts are comprised of:

  • The Supreme Court,
  • Court of Appeal,
  • the High Court,
  • Intermediate Courts, and
  • Primary Courts.

Specialised Courts are comprised of Commercial Courts and Military Courts.  An organic law may establish or remove an ordinary or specialised court. 

The courts have two levels of appeal in the following hierarchy from the lower to the highest Court:

Primary Courts 

There are 41 Primary Courts and they rule over original civil and criminal matters as defined in the law that determines the Organisation, functioning and competence of courts.

Intermediate Courts

There are 12 intermediate courts in the country. The Intermediate Courts have both original and appellate jurisdiction in civil, criminal and administrative matters.

High Court 

The High Court is based in the City of Kigali and has five chambers located in Musanze, Nyanza, Rwamagana and Rusizi which have both original and appellate jurisdiction in civil, criminal and administrative matters. The fifth chamber is the specialised chamber dealing with International Crimes.

The commercial courts

Commercial court: Has original Jurisdiction over commercial cases Commercial High Court: Has the appellate jurisdiction over commercial cases Military courts include:

The Military Court

The Military High Court Court of Appeal: The Court of Appeal adjudicates on appeal level cases handled by the High court, the Commercial High Court and the Military High Court in accordance with the relevant laws.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. Its territorial Jurisdiction covers the entire territory of the Republic of Rwanda. It has original and appellate Jurisdiction in Civil, Criminal, Commercial and Administrative matters as defined by the law n°30/2018 of 02/06/2018 determining the jurisdiction of courts.

The Judiciary is under the authority of the High Council of Judiciary which is chaired by the Honourable Chief Justice who is also the President of Supreme Court. Each court is led by a President. The courts are supported with the Administration staff under the Secretary General’s Services.