The ever-changing gacaca

21 April 2008 by Lars Waldorf

The Rwandan Parliament is currently finalizing a new amendment to the gacaca law that will shift more serious genocide cases-including rape-from the national courts to gaca-ca’s 1,545 community courts. This will be the third time the Gacaca law has been formally amended since it was first issued in 2001-and that’s not counting the various executive decrees that have also reshaped gacaca. 

Gacaca has been—and still remains—very much a work in progress. As Johnston Busingye, who was then the second highest-ranking official in the Ministry of Justice, said in an interview in mid-2006, “Gacaca is not a textbook. We are writing the book as we practice it. Sometimes we change the paragraph before we write the next one.” Gacaca has evolved considerably over the past seven years as it has run the gauntlet of legal amendments, official pronouncements, shifting priorities, donor worries, NGO critiques and practical hurdles. Amidst all that flux, there have been three overarching changes.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.