Online Access to Justice: How Rwanda Uses Digital Tools to Mitigate Covid-19 Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the urgency of transforming justice systems and delivering public services online. Having begun the journey of digital transformation of court cases more than five years ago, the justice sector of Rwanda no longer relies on manual, paper-based case processes. The Judiciary’s use of an online case management solution has kept the courts, as well as other agencies, functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic and has supported the goal of making the justice system more accessible and efficient. 

Rwanda entered full lockdown on March 16, 2020 after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the country. Restrictions were in place until May 31, 2020 during which all institutions, including the Judiciary, were prohibited from opening to the public and had to find innovative ways to sustain service delivery. Because the Judiciary of Rwanda had invested in the Rwanda Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS), adapting to the new reality was significantly streamlined. The IECMS served as the backbone for facilitating case filing and follow-up, including case registration, adjudication, and judgment execution, as well as new features for online auctioning.

During the total lockdown, litigants continued to file and follow up on claims and cases online through the IECMS. Over 14,637 cases were filed in court during the total lockdown from March 16 – May 31, as compared with the first months of 2020 (pre-lockdown from January 1 – March 15) when the total number of filed cases was around 21,015.

Find out how digitization has enabled the courts in Rwanda to minimize disruption and accelerate the dispensing of justice during the lockdown and beyond.