Human Rights Watch in arms with Rwanda again over controversial Gacaca report

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Gacaca trial

By Robert Mugabe

Following the 144-page report, “Justice Compromised: The Legacy of Rwanda’s Community-Based Gacaca Courts,” assessing the courts’ achievements and outlining a number of serious shortcomings in their work, Rwanda government have reacted strongly refuting the report.

According to the government statement, the report is largely viewed as part of the HRW agenda to distort the Rwanda image.

“Since its introduction, Gacaca has brought together relatives of genocide suspects to sit side by side with genocide survivors and judge fairly those who committed these crimes.”Karugarama Tharcisse, Rwanda’s Justice Minister said.

Through Gacaca we have been able to judge and resolve more than 1 million dossiers, a great achievement that would have been impossible otherwise, Karugarama added.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Leslie Haskell the researcher with HRW, said that “Gacaca registered some success but also with many cases flawed trials which have led to miscarriages of justice.”

According to the report, HRW found a wide range of fair trial violations. Serious miscarriages of justice should be reviewed by professional judges in specialized courts in the conventional system, rather than by gacaca courts, as proposed by the Rwandan government in late 2010, Human Rights Watch said.

These included restrictions on the accused’s ability to mount an effective defense; possible miscarriages of justice due to using largely untrained judges; trumped-up charges, some based on the Rwandan government’s wish to silence critics; misuse of gacaca to settle personal scores; judges’ or officials’ intimidation of defense witnesses; and corruption by judges and parties to cases.

“One of the serious shortcomings of gacaca has been its failure to provide justice to all victims of serious crimes committed in 1994,” Bekele said. “By removing RPF crimes from their jurisdiction, the government limited the potential of the gacaca courts to foster long-term reconciliation in Rwanda.

In response, Rwanda government has rubbished the HRW report saying the government employed the National commission on Human rights and other institutions and therefore, the government trusts their institution.

“The Government of Rwanda welcomes constructive criticism as it builds a modern, developed justice system but reports which mischaracterize Gacaca are not constructive.

We call on Human Rights Watch to find a way in future reports to balance informed criticism with a respect for the enormity of the challenges Rwanda faced in the aftermath of the genocide.”

However, for the HRW, maintains that, “As the gacaca courts wind down their work, Rwanda should set up specialized units in the national court system to review alleged miscarriages of justice.”


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