Truth and reconciliation at a price

24 August 2010 by Phil Clark

In the next few weeks, Rwanda will complete the most comprehensive post-conflict justice programme attempted anywhere in the world. Since 2001, 11,000 community-based gacaca courts, overseen by locally-elected judges and barring any participation by lawyers, have prosecuted around 400,000 suspected perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.

Nearly every Rwandan adult has participated in gacaca in some way, either as a witness, defendant or by attending weekly hearings. Under gacaca’s plea-bargaining scheme, the vast majority of those convicted of genocide crimes have had their sentences commuted to community service. If they were among the 120,000 suspects imprisoned directly after the genocide, they have now been reintegrated into the same communities where they committed crimes and live side-by-side with genocide survivors and their families.

The societal impact of gacaca on post-genocide Rwanda has been highly variable. Gacaca’s volatility results from the enormous number of communities involved, which themselves vary greatly in terms of their experiences of the genocide and the nature of inter-ethnic relations today. Over the last nine years, gacaca has recorded two principal successes and confronted two main challenges.

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

21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.