Gacaca trials put to the test

29 March 2005 by Mary Kimani

The first trials before Rwanda's gacaca courts finally opened on 10 March. Almost three years after their official launch, the courts, made up of locally elected judges from a district or hill, read out their first verdicts for people suspected of participating in the genocide. The most notable fact was the summoning of several hundred local administrative leaders before the courts. 

Some 192 cases were heard on day one of the trials. In 34 of these, judgements ranging from acquittal to thirty years' imprisonment were pronounced. Many survivors again expressed their impatience for the legal process to move forward quickly. "It is good that the trials have finally started", said Dina Mujawamariya, a survivor from the Nyamirambo district in Kigali, "but I want them to get to the people who killed my family soon".
Over the last three-and-a-half years, there has been a sustained effort to persuade a large number of suspects in prison to confess their crimes, using the incentive of greatly reduced sentences. The Rwandan authorities say that around 60,000 of them have made confessions to date, some 75% of detainees. This is probably the most tangible result of the entire gacaca initiative. The government is very satisfied with the result; the survivors less so. "It is obvious that they are confessing because they will get out. But they rarely tell the truth. I know many here who were involved in rape. They would never have been released if they had confessed to that", says Dina Mujawamariya bitterly.

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

article
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

article
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

article
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

article
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

article
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.