Authorities say the DNA database will facilitate pinning criminals, especially in rape, defilement and murder cases.
The Government is considering creating a database for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and biometric data for all Rwandans, judicial officials have said.
The Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, disclosed this while opening the ‘Justice Week’ in Kigali on Monday.
Jeannot Ruhunga, the Secretary General of Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), said criminal investigation is sometimes delayed by testing the DNA of several suspects before coming to the real culprit.
Both officials said that they need a test of every Rwandan such that in such crimes, they only test the DNA of suspects, which would then be compared to the available DNA data to figure out who the culprit could be.
“We think we have the technical basis now to launch into the development of a DNA database. That said, it is, first of all, a legal process. We will examine global best practice on the issue, propose appropriate law and implement accordingly,” Busingye noted.
Rwanda, he said, is investing in forensic science to ultimately cub crime by forensic evidence that proves beyond doubt who is who in a crime.
“We have come a long way in science and I want to assure you that the ultimate goal is to have all the necessary equipment and technical knowhow to provide accurate information about who is responsible for the crime,” he said.
While the minister did not specify the timelines for setting up the database, he said securing the financial resources and seeking legalisation through parliament were some of the steps to be undertaken.
“The idea itself is a good one in terms of security and in terms of combating crimes here and there, both in the country and even beyond. The issue is the right to the examination of one’s physical body, this always has to be voluntary,” he noted.
Rutabingwa said the law currently says that nobody would be subjected to forced examination of his body unless it is a legal requirement, for instance, in case of rape case where there is need for approval that someone is a suspect in that case.
However, Rutabingwa added, under normal circumstances there is no way you can take someone’s DNA test.
“That is against the law.”
Even in the possible scenario of legalising it – the way the Government proposes to do it through parliament – he highlighted that there are international conventions that Rwanda has signed and is party to, which prevail over domestic laws.
He mentioned, among others, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by United Nations (UN).
Last year, Rwanda established Rwanda Forensic Laboratory, which has the capacity to conduct DNA tests in the country.
Since its establishment, more than 400 DNA tests have been carried out for crime investigations or families seeking to verify the real parents of their children.
A DNA test for two parents and a child currently stands at Rwf257,032 at Rwanda Forensic Laboratory.
This means that conducting DNA tests for all Rwandans – based on the current population of 12 million – would cost over Rwf1 trillion, nearly half of the country’s annual budget for the 2018/19 fiscal year.