Genocide courts attacked for failure to heal Rwanda's scars
Rwanda's widely praised community genocide courts, due to wind up later this year, have done nothing to "heal ethnic divisions" and have been used to "bolster government authority", according to a new report by one of the country's leading donors.
The unique "gacaca" courts, which have heard more than one million cases, have been hailed as the centrepiece of the mountain nation's miracle recovery from the 1994 genocide but their reputation has been disputed in a study by the Japanese aid corporation, JICA.
The courts were touted as an "African solution" that would heal the legacy left by a Hutu-led genocide that killed nearly one in ten Rwandese, many from the Tutsi minority. But the gacaca courts are regarded in Rwanda as handing out "victor's justice", argues researcher Shinichi Takeuch, who says they "have done nothing to appease underlying ethnic tensions in the country".
Nearly a decade after 800,000 people were murdered in a 100-day killing spree, impoverished Rwanda found itself with 135,000 detainees and only 12 courts to process their cases. The innovative answer was to revive the concept of the customary "courtyard" or "gacaca" hearings and 11,000 of these courts were set up.
All but the top tier suspects – the planners and instigators of the genocide, notorious mass murderers and rapists who were sent to a UN tribunal – went to gacaca courts where witnesses could confront alleged perpetrators.
The government of President Paul Kagame said the courts are aimed at re-establishing a "concord" and "making the simple citizens who have been manipulated and have perpetrated the crimes to take a good start again".
Authorities vowed that justice could "become true only if the truth about the events is established".
However, while this week's report acknowledged the extraordinary scale of the problems faced by Rwanda and some local acceptance of the gacaca solution, it said that the justice they offered was allowed "only insofar as it did not threaten the existing political order".
President Kagame's Rwandese Patriotic Front, in power since 1994, has always claimed credit for stopping the Hutu-led genocide. But the President's reputation has lost some of its shine since it was accused of a violent crackdown in the build-up to last year's elections, sending hit squads to assassinate regime critics in the UK and South Africa among other countries. Kigali has denied murdering Rwandese critics living abroad and dismissed European and US critics for "imposing" Western democratic models on a fragile state.
Human Rights Watch, in its own report on the gacaca system earlier this year, said the courts had done well to process so many cases and alleviate prison overcrowding but had done so at the expense of fair trials and had failed to address crimes by Tutsi rebels.
The unusual source of this week's criticism of one of the central planks of Kagame's success story – coming from traditionally quiet donor Japan – will embarass Kigali. Tokyo's aid agency, Jica, handed out $33m (£20m) in grants to Rwanda last year.
- 1 Bruce Jenner's 'Interview of the year': Suicidal thoughts, rejection by family members and new wardrobe
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
Bruce Jenner's 'Interview of the year': Suicidal thoughts, rejection by family members and new wardrobe
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...