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Genocide Suspects Go on Trial Under Rwanda's Traditional Court System

Traditional courts in Rwanda began trying suspects Thursday in the nation's 1994 genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, were killed.

The community courts, known as "gacaca" were set up by the Rwandan government to speed up justice for tens of thousands of suspects. The courts are also designed to lessen the burden on the nation's legal system and a United Nations-backed tribunal in Tanzania, which is only trying the leaders of the government-organized slaughter.

Rwanda's village courts have been investigating suspects for several years, with local residents trained to serve on nine-judge panels.

Under gacaca, suspects are tried in the area where they allegedly committed their crimes and are directly confronted by survivors.

The harshest sentence that can be handed down is life in prison.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP.