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How restorative is Rwanda’s justice?

July 19, 2009

Gacaca, literally “on the grass,” is a restorative system
which allows perpetrators responsible for crimes including isolated
murder and destruction of property during the genocide to decrease
their prison sentences if they plead guilty, apologize, and agree to
supplement their shortened jail time with community service. But the gacaca
courts have been instructed by the RPF to focus only on crimes that
occurred during a limited timeframe, most of which were committed by
Hutus. During the protracted civil war that preceded the genocide,
though, The Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Army was also responsible for
murder, rape, and destruction of Hutu property. Also, gacaca judges
are untrained and elected by the community, which raises concerns about
international standards of due process and impartiality.

While it’s important that the major perpetrators of the genocide be
held accountable for their crimes, without fair trials that cut across
ethnic groups, these supposedly restorative courts could perpetuate,
not end, Rwanda’s horrific cycle of violence that has plagued Hutu and
Tutsi controlled governments for the past half-century.

This is the full entry. Read the thoughtful comment.


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