Genocide courts finish work in milestone for Rwanda’s healing
By Auke Lootsma, Country Director for the UNDP office in Rwanda
Rwanda formally closed the Gacaca community courts today, after 10 years of prosecution of those accused in the 1994 genocide.
Nearly two million suspects have been
tried in hearings that typically took place outdoors, such as in
marketplaces, and provided community members the opportunity to face the
accused, and give their own account of what happened during the 1994
About a quarter of the cases have
resulted in acquittal, while many prison sentences have been converted
into community service, helping facilitate the reintegration of former
detainees into society.
As a result, the number of detainees related to the genocide has dropped from over 200,000 to 37,000.
Rwanda's legal system was crippled after
the massacres by ethnic Hutu militia of nearly 800,000 minority Tutsis
and politically moderate Hutus.
The goals of the Gacaca included uncovering the truth of what happened during the genocide, addressing impunity by prosecuting the genocide’s perpetrators, reconciling Rwandans, and proving that Rwandans have the capacity to settle their own problems through a system of justice based on their own custom.
For the last two decades, the
international community has asserted the importance of fighting impunity
for serious international crimes, helping to set up international
tribunals. At the same time, the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) and others also supported national and “homegrown” initiatives
with the potential to have a direct and sustainable impact on affected
Between 2002 and 2006, UNDP provided US$
1.6 million to the Gacaca management body - Service National des
Jurisdictions Gacaca - for development of manuals, trainings, advocacy,
and documentation of important lessons learned during the process.