Source: (2004) African Studies Quarterly. 8(1). Fall. Downloaded 8 March 2005.
The epicentre of post-genocide Rwandan society and politics has been the need for reconciliation to assuage ethnic tensions and end a culture of impunity. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has yet to meet its goal of reconciliation in Rwanda: The failure of the tribunal goes beyond its institutional shortcomings and can be attributed the norms of international criminal law that render it an inappropriate response to criminalizing mass violence. The Gacaca courts were resurrected in Rwanda as an indigenous form of restorative justice. The principles and process of these courts hope to mitigate the failures of “Arusha Justice” at the tribunal and seeks to punish or reintegrate over one hundred thousands genocide suspects. Its restorative foundations require that suspects will be tried and judged by neighbours in their community. However, the revelation that Gacaca is a reconciliatory justice does not preclude its potential for inciting ethnic tension it if purports to serve as an instrument of Tutsi power. The state-imposed approach of command justice has politicised the identity of the participants in Gacaca — perpetrators remain Hutus and victims and survivors remain Tutsis. Additionally, the refusal of the Kagame government to allow for the prosecution of RPF crimes to be tried in Gacaca courts empowers the notion that Tutsi survival is preconditioned by Tutsi power and impunity. If Gacaca fails to end the perceptions of impunity in post-genocide Rwanda, it will come at a much higher cost for reconciliation than the failure of the ICTR. The relevance of justice after genocide speaks to the appropriateness of retributive and restorative models of justice in a post-genocide society such as Rwanda. Additionally, the model of justice must be reconciled to the nature of a political regime that imposes unity under an ethnocratic minority. Author’s abstract.
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