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Retributive Justice vs. Restorative Justice: The Rwandan Experience.

Gomez, Angelina
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Australian Law Journal. 82(2):105.

This article investigates the possibilities of retributive and restorative justice approaches to the victim-perpetrator relationship by using an extreme example, that is, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and the attempts made by Rwandans and the international community to establish the rule of law in its aftermath. This article argues that the breakdown of the rule of law and of Rwandan society that enabled the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, was brought about by a process of framing, that is, “ethnic framing”. It will be argued that the act of framing dehumanised the framed object, the victim, to such an extent that violence, even genocide, was an acceptable reaction to it and dialogue with both sides is needed to rehumanise the framed. The effectiveness of retributive justice in transforming the victim- perpetrator relationship to destroy Rwanda’s “ethnic framing” will be examined. Restorative justice, in particular, truth and reconciliation commissions, will also be considered as an alternative to retributive justice. The Rwandan hybrid of restorative and retributive justice, the Gacaca Courts, will also be briefly examined. (author’s abstract)


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