“Harmonization of Evidence-Based Forensic Science Practice in Africa- A Holistic Approach Towards a Safer Continent,”.
The launch of African Society of Forensic Medicine International conference took place in Kigali City. Themed “Harmonization of Evidence-Based Forensic Science Practice in Africa- A Holistic Approach Towards a Safer Continent,”.
The sub themes to be discussed are: Forensic science practice in Africa current state, challenges and opportunities for improvement; Forensic investigation in mass fatality incidents and disaster victim identification; Management of sexual and other forms of violence (clinical forensic medicine); Tissue banking on the African continent :current state, challenges and way-forward. It run from 8th to 10th March 2023.
The three days event raised several issues for discussions including human tissue banking, Management of the dead, Identification of deceased migrants, Disaster response and management, Prevention of gender-based violence, crime scene management and harmonized evidence-based forensic science practice.
According to Dr. Karangwa, during the conference ASFM headquarters also known as Africa Forensic Science Academy will be launched, and it will focus on establishing and harmonizing guidelines and training countries on matters related with forensic science on the continent.
“It won’t be an academy like UR, it will be a network for setting guidelines and harmonizing them, but also training countries on forensic science. Countries need to have the same skills on forensic services for them to harmonize working conditions and guidelines,” Dr. Karangwa said.
A new bill in the pipeline made the Rwanda Forensic Laboratory (RFL) a centre of excellence, capable of training experts in forensic sciences from across Africa, wich could be one of the reasons the won the bid to host ASFM conference and launch of its headquarters in Kigali.
Dr.Karangwa was earlier quoted saying; “Most of Africa’s major training in forensic science, a multidisciplinary field encompassing legal medicine, pathology, microbiology among other subjects, are offered by South African universities.”
“Becoming a larger institution has been part of our strategic plan,” said Dr Charles Karangwa, the RFL’s Director General, “And we have had different African ministers of justice who visited our country and asked us to train their citizens in forensic sciences and evidence handling.”
In his opening remarks at the Conference, Hon. Chief Justice Dr. Faustin Ntezilyayo reiterated that “Having a Forensic Institution that supports the justice system with evidence based on science and technology for use in our courts of law and other justice bodies is a great achievement to the country. Besides providing relevant scientific evidence, Rwanda Forensic Laboratory services contribute towards reducing the turnaround time of judicial proceedings. It is worth noting that RFL has now concluded strategic forensic partnerships with international bodies and organizations and other sister institutions in order to enhance its expertise.”
He furthermore emphasised that the ASFM International Conference is a good initiative that brings together hundreds of scientists, forensic practitioners and other players from the forensic science community to exchange knowledge in the fast-increasing number of forensic science disciplines.
Hé went on to commend the input of Rwanda Forensic Laboratory by adding that; “We in the Judiciary, are very grateful for the invaluable contribution of forensic and medico-legal experts in our duty to deliver quality and timely justice. It is my hope, however, that during this Conference, forensic science shortcomings and weaknesses that continue to plague forensic science with the risk that if unaddressed they may lead to miscarriage of justice, will be discussed and solutions to fix them agreed upon.
Dr. Uwom O. Eze, the President of the African Society of Forensic Medicine took the delegates through the science of forensic evidence and made sure that everyone understands the reality in forensic practices, evidence can be wronged, dangers in equating fact to evidence and better practices in closing the gap.
Into the bargain he said that; “In Africa we believe, but that propensity is a set back in forensic practices. We should doubt when it comes to evidence”.
Dr. Amoudou M.Diallo, from Guinee Conakry, showed how masked depression has a link between post traumatically sexually violated women and mentioned it amongst the salient issues specifically due to the violation of the victims inherent dignity and human rights. Thiswas cited as a hinderance to the process of solving such cases.
He added that; “It is vital for investigators and mental health professionals to be aware of the potential for masked depression in survivors of sexual violence.”
Dr Alfred Ngirababyeyi, a psychiatrist, replying to a question he’s been asked a lot, explained what a forensic psychiatrist does for the justice system.
He noted the high demand for properly investigating crimes committed by psychologically-troubled people and went on to confirm that there is a significant number of people in need of specialized forensic psychiatric care and and as a community, it is our onus to understand and embrace forensics, to not only lower crime rates but ensure proper trials at all levels.”
In his closing speech, The Attorney General Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja while speaking on the importance of Forensics, the minister asserted, “On a more serious note, if you have a weak Forensic system, you are not achieving the goals of true justice.”
He highlighted that it is important to have these conferences, but what is more important is how knowledge got from the discussions is applied to ensure that RFL plays a great role in achieving the goals of Forensic Science.
Twahirwa Janat Umumarashavu