Punishment and reconciliation in Rwanda after the genocide

In addition to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), a traditional Rwandan system of dispute resolution is being used to try those who committed atrocities during the genocide a decade ago. It differs from the ICTR and operates by a different logic, stressing reconciliation, since many perpetrators will have to be reintegrated into society to live along side survivors.

From African Studies Quarterly:

“In response to the ineffectiveness of the [ICTR] tribunal and the incapacity of its national court system, the Rwandan government has revived a traditional form of dispute resolution called Gacaca (ga-CHA-cha).  10,000 Gacaca courts will try genocide suspects in the communities where their crimes were committed.  They will be tried and judged by their neighbours.

Gacaca represents a model of restorative justice because it focuses on the healing of victims and perpetrators, confessions, plea-bargains, and reintegration. It is these characteristics that render it a radically different approach from the retributive and punitive nature of justice at the ICTR and national courts. Great hope has been placed in the ability of restorative justice to contribute to reconciliation at the individual and community level.  Gacaca justice is meant to be as intimate as the genocide itself: If it is unable to provide for reconciliation it will come at a high cost for Rwandan society.”

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