Amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, both private and governmental law and justice operations are being negatively impacted. Countries and states are forced into quarantine and are adapting their methods of citizen engagement, looking for ways to continue to provide services to the public and not suspend their entire operations.
It is in extreme situations and crisis circumstances such as this, when face to face interactions are limited (or in some cases even prohibited), that the power of technology can be appreciated from a new perspective. While electronic Case Management Systems were originally designed to help governments improve efficiency and combat corruption, in times of crisis the systems display their full value: they support continuity in electronic business processes, enabling social distancing for a subset of their operations that otherwise would have been suspended.
As courts and other justice institutions worldwide are trying to identify new ways to continue their operations, the ones who are already employing electronic Case Management Systems have the option of not shutting down their institutions entirely. Even though some operations are being halted, for instance case hearings and pre-trial meetings, governments that have invested in these systems are now reaping their unforeseen benefits. Those courts and other justice institutions that have moved their services online are able to maintain a base level of functioning and can continue reaching out to their citizens.
Case in Point: E-filing within Rwanda IECMS
Launched in 2016, the Rwanda Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) integrates all institutions of the country’s justice sector (Rwanda Investigation Bureau, National Public Prosecution Authority, Judiciary, Rwanda Correctional Services, etc.). Since then, all case related business processes of the country’s justice sector have been conducted electronically.
One such business process is the filing of court cases. Since 2016, all cases in Rwanda have been filed electronically, thus eliminating the need for citizens to visit the court in person to file their cases.
In light of the current situation, Rwanda IECMS is helping justice institutions in Rwanda to achieve more than simply increasing their efficiency.
In a “Notice to the General Public” on measures taken to prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19, issued by the Supreme Court of Rwanda on March 15, 2020, the Bureau of the High Council of the Judiciary orders “the suspension of court hearings, pre-trial hearings and scheduled meetings between litigants, court administration and the Department of Inspectorate of Courts” for a period of two weeks, until March 30, 2020. The official statement advises the litigants and the general public to contact courts through online platforms and hotlines, including IECMS.
Rwanda IECMS is helping Rwandan courts not to close down entirely. The system continues to provide an interface between the Rwandan Judiciary and litigants for electronic filing of cases, which allows the registrars to receive new cases from litigants. Moreover, judges continue to have remote access to their cases, making judicial and court services accessible to citizens even in times like these.
“Rwanda IECMS is vital in situations like the one we are facing now, because it enables judges and Court officers to work remotely on their cases from anywhere,” says Justice Harrison Mutabazi, the Official Spokesperson of the Rwanda Judiciary.
The remote access to justice is also helping the Government of Rwanda to prevent the spread of COVID 19 by physical contact.
“In such situations, e-filing is very helpful, since it aids the litigants to file their cases to the Court without necessarily approaching in person. This reduces physical contacts between litigants to litigants and to the Court officers. I think this is one of the means helping to curb the spread of the scourge,” says Justice Harrison Mutabazi.
Moreover, Rwanda IECMS enables electronic transmission of relevant information between various institutions of the justice sector, from the Rwanda Investigation Bureau to the prosecution, then courts and correctional services. Initially designed to increase transparency and efficiency, this functionality of the IECMS is now contributing to the continuity of some segments of the sector, while preventing any sort of physical contact.
“It is a great satisfaction that the technology solutions we provide are helping governments and organizations to keep themselves safe, smoothly carry on with their operations, and at the same time, play their part in containing the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus”, says Dr. Ashot Hovanesian, Synergy’s CEO and Founder.
Over the past 23 years, Synergy has been providing consultancy and software solutions in a number of domains in justice sector, as well as governance and public management and strategy execution to its clients in more than 70 countries worldwide. More specifically, Synergy provides justice sector Case Management Systems to a number of countries covering the needs of various institutions from single courts to anti-corruption bodies to the entire integrated justice sector.