The recently amended General Criminal Law as of April 12, 2023, grants judges the authority to impose sentences smaller than those specified in the previous law of August 30, 2018. For instance, for crimes carrying a life sentence, judges can now reduce the sentence to 15 years, as opposed to the previous minimum of 25 years. Another change allows fines to be reduced to ¼ of the originally stipulated amount, and public interest service can be postponed.
Mr. Maurice Munyentwali, in a talk show dubbed ‘Umuzi w’Amategeko’ (the Root of Law) aired on IGIHE, clarified that the intention behind easing punishments is not to encourage criminal behavior. Rather, it aims to afford judges more flexibility in matching the severity of punishment with the committed crime, as the previous law constrained their discretion.
Noteworthy modifications include an increase in penalties for war crimes and a provision that imposes a life sentence for desertion, unless it is demonstrated that the perpetrator suffered trauma after childbirth while breastfeeding, with approval from a state-recognized doctor or psychologist.
In the case of trading illegal items in Rwanda, including substandard or harmful food, drinks, and medicines, individuals may face imprisonment ranging from three to five years and a fine ranging from one to three million Rwandan francs, or a combination of these penalties.
Furthermore, unlawfully keeping another person’s property may result in imprisonment for six months to two years and a fine ranging from Rwf50,000 to Rwf300,000 .