A quest for justice: the journey of a widow to claim her right to compensation


Bertilde telling her story (Photo: UNDP-Rwanda/ Alice Kayibanda)

Before she sought help from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Bertilde Mukangarambe never thought that her 20 years’ battle against an insurance company  would ever come to end.

After her husband’s deadly accident on 19 February 1993, Bertilde started the process to claim financial compensation from the insurance company.  For the last 20 years she hasn’t lived an ordinary life as she was determined to pursue her case against the insurance company over her late husband’s death.

Initially she was unsuccessful as the insurance company did not respond to her claim which led her to take the case to court.  In February 1994, Bertilde won the case against the insurer and the court ordered to pay her a total sum of Rwf 6.242.655.

Highlights

  • Ever since its creation, the National Human Rights Commission of Rwanda works together the United Nations. In particular, UNDP and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have worked hand in hand to build the capacity of the Commission to better monitor and promote human rights in line with the International and national legal framework.

In April 1994,  the genocide erupted. Like many other Rwandans, Bertilde fled the country leaving everything behind.  Upon return to Rwanda, Bertilde’s first step was to pick up where she left off her court case.  But the insurance company  appealed the verdict.

Bertilde then decided to turn to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to settle her claim.

I had gone from court to court, from the High Court to the Supreme Court to resolve my case. After the genocide, I had  no longer any record of my case. The only thing I was left with was a small piece of paper that showed that I had been in court before regarding that particular case. So I didn’t know what to do next. However, one day someone advised me to consult the National Human Rights Commission and I did” explained Bertilde.

Before she decided to knock on the door of the National Human Right Commission, Bertilde said the case had drained her completely physically, emotionally, and financially. According to Bertilde, if the National Human Rights Commission had not intervened in her case to claim her rights, it might have never been resolved.

In 2007, the National Human Rights Commission took on her case facilitating her access to justice through the supreme court.. The final verdict was made in 2011 in her favour; finally Bertilde got her right to compensation.

Today, Bertilde is still happy with her victory and that justice had been served. In memory of her husband and the long arduous journey, Bertilde decided to not use the money for any other business but to build a small house for rent in her backyard.

Laurent Nkongoli of National Commission for Human Rights, who supported Bertilde throughout the process, said the National Human Rights Commission deals with countless cases which are always unique in their own ways. But for him, Bertilde’s case was special.

Bertilde’s case was special. Not because it was the most touching one but because it was one of the cases that had begun before the 1994 genocide and then files were kept without any order so it was very difficult to retrieve hers back. And secondly and most importantly Bertilde was a very brave and committed woman” Laurent explained. 

Ever since its creation, the National Human Rights Commission of Rwanda works together the United Nations.  In particular, UNDP and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have worked hand in hand to build the capacity of the Commission to better monitor and promote human rights in line with the International and national legal framework.

Today, the National Commission for Human Rights is an independent national institution responsible for educating and mobilizing the population on matters relating to human rights; examining the violations of human rights committed on Rwandan territory by State organs, public officials using their duties as cover, by organizations and by individuals; carrying out investigations of human rights abuses in Rwanda and filing complaints with the competent courts  and preparing and disseminating  annual reports  and other reports  on the situation of human rights in Rwanda.

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