Rwanda genocide community courts officially conclude operations

[JURIST] The Rwandan community courts set up to hear genocide-related cases, known as gacaca courts [official website; BBC backgrounder] officially concluded their 10-year operation on Monday. The gacaca process has been praised by the UN [The New Times report] as demonstrating that national initiatives have a more direct and sustainable impact on the country and thus, must be supported in the future. The UN stated that this process showed that the community courts not only help to relieve courts from backlog of genocide-related cases but also contributed peace and reconciliation. The courts were established by the Rwandan government in 2001 to reduce the caseload related to the Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the country's traditional justice system. During the 10-year term, the courts have found 65 percent of the approximately two million individuals tried guilty. Human rights group argued that the courts have failed to meet the international legal standards. More than 10,000 people died in detention before even facing trial. Additionally, the courts were operated by people who lacked legal expertise attaining fair trial processes in complex genocide cases unreachable. In 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] a report [text] stating that the trials conducted by the courts were flawed in that they included defense witness intimidation, bribery, untrained judges, embellishment of charges and various restrictions that prevent an accused from effectively defending himself. There has also been criticism that some members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) [HRW backgrounder] have never faced trial before the gacaca courts.

In addition to the gacaca courts, the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] is responsible for higher-level cases related to the 1994 genocide. It has begun to cooperate with the country's judicial system by transferring genocide cases to the national courts. Earlier this month, the ICTR transferred [JURIST report] the case of Bernard Munyagishari [materials] who had been charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, murder and rape, to the authorities of the Republic of Rwanda. It was the fifth case that was transferred to Rwandan national courts. In May, the case of Ladislas Ntaganzwa [case materials] was transferred [JURIST report] to the Rwandan national court system. Ntaganzwa, a former mayor of Nyakizu commune in Butare, had been charged with with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. Jean-Bosco Uwinkindi [case materials], a former Rwandan pastor and a genocide suspect, was the first to be transferred [JURIST report] from the ICTR to the national court. Uwinkindi appealed to the decision to transfer his case but it was rejected [JURIST reports] by the ICTR in December. He has been charged in 2001 with genocide and crimes against humanity. The other two transferred cases are against Fulgence Kayishema [case materials; JURIST report], a former police inspector, and Charles Sikubwabo [case materials], former Bourgmestre of Gishyita, Kibuye Prefecture. Both suspects remain at large.

 

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