News / Africa

Twenty Years On, Questions of Rwandan Justice Persist

Twenty Years On, Questions of Rwandan Justice Persisti
X
Emilie Iob
April 04, 2014 5:11 PM
As Rwandans observe the 20th anniversary of their nation's genocide, many are reflecting on the problems that have been overcome and whether justice has been adequately served. Emilie IOB reports for VOA from the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
VIDEO: As Rwandans observe the 20th anniversary of their nation's genocide, many reflect on whether justice has been adequately served.
At the main prison in Kigali, inmates who have been tried in court wear orange outfits. Those still awaiting trial wear pink, but they are now a minority.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1994 genocide — in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in 100 days — there were 120,000 people accused of having taken part in the killings.

In those first years, all the accused were to be brought before the national court system, says Balinda Anastase, coordinator at the Ministry of Justice.

"We calculated that with an average of 1,000 people on trial per year, it would take a century just to judge the 120,000 incarcerated at the time," he says.

To accelerate the process, a traditional community justice system was implemented in the early 2000s. At the Gacaca courts, the community elected judges to try suspects.

But according to Anastase, there were some initial difficulties.

"Some people were not honest in their impartiality," he says. "There were instances of witness intimidation and even murder as neighbors testified against each other. It wasn't easy. "

Human Rights Watch and other groups were critical of the Gacaca courts' informality and lack of legal training for both judges and the defense.

But the Rwandan government defended the system, saying this kind of community justice helped reconciliation. To aid that process, a 2008 law also reduced sentences for convicts who showed remorse and apologized for their crimes.

Genocide Survivors Association secretary Naphtal Ahishakiye calls this something that was very important to the survivors.

"As survivors, we benefited from the Gacaca many things. One is the truth," he says. "Because, during Gacaca, we knew what happened to our family members."

After 10 years of operations, the Gacaca courts were closed in 2012, at which point the Rwandan government claims to have tried close to two million suspects — 65 percent of whom were convicted.

To try the leaders of the genocide, the United Nations in 1994 set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Arusha, Tanzania.

The court has convicted 49 people of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, including former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, who received a sentence of life in prison.

But survivors' groups weren't pleased with all ICTR decisions: Ahishakiye says the acquittal of two generals ignored critical testimony.

"As survivors, we have information on the part these people played in the genocide," he says. "It's the reason why [the court] ignored some facts."

New York-based Human Rights Watch has criticized the Arusha court for being unwilling to prosecute members of RPF, Rwanda's ruling party. The ICTR is due to close down at the end of the year.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More