Gacaca courts versus the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda and national courts: lessons to learn from the Rwandan justice approaches to genocide
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The 20th century witnessed several wars and genocides worldwide. Notable examples include the Armenian and Jews genocides which took place during World War I and World War II respectively. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 is a more recent example where a large number of the population was affected, either as victims or perpetrators. Over 800,000 Tutsis were dead, and more than 120,000 suspects were in prison for the genocide. The present study focuses on the Rwandan genocide against Tutsi where the scale of the crimes simultaneously dictated the overwhelming need for justice at both international and national level. At the international level, the ICTR was set up by the United Nations to deal with the organisers of the genocide while the Rwandan national courts were left to deal with the remaining suspects. Yet it became increasingly clear that the national courts lacked themselves the capacity to deal with the vast majority of alleged perpetrators. If their impact was to be enhanced, they needed to rely on the support of alternative justice mechanisms. So Rwanda introduced a modern version of the traditional Gacaca courts as an attempt to deal with the huge backlog of cases in order to combat the culture of impunity. However, having different courts for one and the same situation has had its own limitations. One of these issues is the legal and practical disparities that exist between the ad hoc International Tribunal and national justice mechanisms in the process of prosecuting perpetrators, such as the unequal treatment of the accused. This study therefore attempts to show these discrepancies and their impact on the process of accountability and reconciliation. Thus, the study analyses the relationship between the ICTR, national courts and Gacaca in prosecution of genocide suspects as well as lessons from the adopted ‘multifaceted approaches’ to deal with the crime of genocide.