Embattled Edouard Bamporiki recently took to Twitter to admit that he was involved in corruption. Through his Twitter handle, Bamporiki — the former State Minister of Youth and Culture — also pleaded with President Paul Kagame to pardon him.
His appeal attracted a mixture of public outrage and sympathy, in varying measures.
However, from a legal perspective, questions revolving around the implications of publicly admitting to a crime have come up, especiallly as law enforcement agencies proceed with investigations into the case.
Nyakubahwa Umukuru w'uRwanda @PaulKagame, Narahemutse. Umutima wanze kumpa amahwemo. Bavandimwe, Nshuti zanjye, namwe abankurikira kuri uru rubuga, Nakoze icyaha cyo kwakira indonke. Nkaba ntafite irindi jambo navuga usibye Kubasaba mwese imbabazi. Ndatakambye.
— Bamporiki Edouard (@Bamporikie) May 6, 2022
Innocent Muramira, a lawyer, told The New Times that pleading guilty on social media or before the court, in general, may help the suspect. The argument is that by admitting to the crime, the suspect has eased the work and save the time and resources of the investigators and prosecutors.
Muramira further explained that in most cases, when the defendant is looking for sympathy from the Judge, they admit the crimes.
For instance, when they are requesting a lesser penalty they might say they never wasted the court’s time. They also plead guilty, are cooperative with the investigators and submitted every material requested, he added
“All that helps when one is trying to look for mitigating factors that can ease the punishment. And under the Rwandan law, when you plead guilty most of the time, there is a chance you get half of the sentence,” he said
The lawyer added that being cooperative can also be grounds for requesting a suspended sentence from the Judge who solely holds the jurisdiction over the court in subject.
What does the law say?
Article 59 of the law determines offences and penalties, in general, states that certain mitigating circumstances are decided by a judge and they may reduce penalties, especially when:
“The accused, before the commencement of prosecution pleads guilty and sincerely seeks forgiveness from the victim and the Rwandan society and expresses remorse and repairs the damage caused as much as would be expected from them;” reads part of the article
In addition, the judge mitigates or reduces the sentence when the accused turns into competent judicial authority before or during the pre-trial proceedings.
“At the outset of the trial in the first instance, the accused pleads guilty by a sincere confession;” it adds
Furthermore, the judge assesses if the offence has minor consequences.
While Article 60 states the reduction of penalties in cases of mitigating circumstances decided by a judge if there are mitigating circumstances, penalties may be reduced as follows:
“Subject to the provisions of Article 107 life imprisonment may be reduced but it cannot be less than 25 years,” it says adding; “ If fixed-term imprisonment or a fine may be reduced but it cannot be less than the minimum sentence provided for the offence committed.”