the friend online
23 March 2007


Old justice: Gacaca - preview

Next week the Friend will be devoted to exploring new visions in criminal justice. Here we look at an old community system which helped in the dramatic aftermath of the Rwandan genocide

Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, so many people were in prison, implicated in the killing, that judging all of them would have taken hundreds of years
  • An alternative for those considered to have perpetrated lesser crimes was to be tried by a local people's court headed by a locally appointed judge with a limited amount of training
  • Some of these Gacaca judges were given AVP training and that was shown to result in greater impartiality

  • The current manifestation of Gacaca, which literally means 'on the grass', is based on a traditional practice within Rwandan society in which members of the community took part in resolving disputes between community members and in punishing offences committed by individuals within the community
  • Within traditional Rwandan society, male elders would act as judges, and community members would testify about the events that occurred
  • In addition, the family of the offender would be responsible for compensating for the offence, and the offender would be reintegrated back into the community and rehabilitated
  • This system of justice brought the affair into the open, involved the whole community in resolving it, provided for compensation, and brought the offender back into the community fold
  • Today's Gacaca law is set up to accomplish all four of these goals in an effort not only to punish the genoçidaires, but also to get at the truth of the genocide

  • This is a preview of the full article - to see the whole thing, or to post a comment you need to login, or alternatively you could try a free sample!


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