Source: (2003) M.A. thesis, Political Science, Faculty of Graduate Studies, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. Downloaded 16 November 2005.

In the aftermath of a massive atrocity such as the Rwandan genocide, how should a nation respond? Should justice or national reconciliation take priority? Must the two aims compete? What type of institutions and processes constitute the most appropriate response? In political, legal and academic circles alike, these questions remain divisive. Some propose that a form of retributive justice is paramount and that criminal prosecutions are the essential response to atrocities such as genocide. Others argue for the necessity of conciliatory mechanisms and restorative initiatives focusing on acknowledgment of injuries, restoration of relationships and achieving cooperation and trust. How effective, appropriate and complete are each of these approaches individually? Collectively? This paper examines the comparative utility of these approaches in developing judicial approaches to mass atrocities in a post-conflict situation, and juxtaposes them with the institutions and processes currently being employed to deal with those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The paper will discuss the progression of Rwanda’s search for justice, and analyze the effectiveness of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Rwandan national courts, and the Gacaca Tribunals in achieving justice and contributing to the process of national reconciliation. Bringing together the theoretical examination (Part I) and the Rwandan case study (Part II), this paper will suggest that in post-conflict situations like Rwanda where impunity remains rampant and relationships broken, neither a purely retributive, nor a purely restorative approach to justice is sufficient. Rather, an appropriate and effective judicial response to a mass atrocity must apply a balance of retributivism and restorative justice principles, dealing with crime as both, and equally, a violation of law and harm and injury to persons and relationships. In this way, an appropriate response should reinforce the rule of law while also fostering participation in judicial processes and addressing personal injuries. Rwanda’s establishment of Gacaca Tribunals may become a good example of this kind of judicial response, which is likely both to promote justice and facilitate reconciliation for the Rwandan people. Author's abstract.

Read Full Article