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Addressing Crimes Against International Law:Rwanda’s Gacaca in Practice.

Ridell, Jennifer G.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Thesis presented for the degree of LL.M at the University of Aberdeen.

Rwanda experienced horrific genocide in 1994. In its aftermath, national and international
trials were established but these trials failed to deal expeditiously with the large numbers of
suspects awaiting trial. To combat this, Rwanda introduced an innovative participative
justice mechanism, Gacaca. Modern Gacaca is based on a traditional Rwandan restorative
justice mechanism of the same name. Its rooting in Rwanda’s history makes Gacaca a
much more acceptable form of justice to the Rwandan people than international trials given
the international community’s abandonment of Rwanda during the genocide. While Gacaca
falls short of many international fair trial standards it remains Rwanda’s best hope as a
wholly Rwandan process. But, Gacaca is more than just a judicial instrument, it has
restorative justice at its origin and seeks, as its ultimate aim, to reconcile Rwanda’s divided
communities. To reach this aim, Gacaca has several other objectives including discovering
the truth of what happened in 1994, ending impunity which has plagued Rwanda since
independence and allowing the Rwandan population to participate in the search for justice
at a local level. This thesis studies the importance of these aims to Gacaca and whether the
Gacaca courts are meeting their optimistic objectives in order to evaluate whether Gacaca
is succeeding in Rwanda. Research was conducted through interviews throughout Rwanda
and much civil society research was studied as well as material discussing the objectives
from a more conceptual perspective. (author’s abstract)


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