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Indigenous courts differ from courts in Western nations. The link below takes you to the National Service of Gacaca Jurisdictions. These are courts which were established in Rwanda after the genocide
Why do you think the Gacaca Courts were established?
The Gacaca Courts, which are traditional and communal-based justice system, were established in 2001 after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Thecommunity participate to resolve conflicts such as crimes against humanity. The Gacaca courts were expected to speed up the process of prosecuting genocidaires, rendering justice, and forging reconciliation among Rwandans, esp. among Hutus and Tutsis . The shortcomings, failures, and setbacks of the Arusha International Ciminal Tribunal of Rwanda paved the way for Gacaca courts to judicially prosecute tens of thousands of single cases within 10 years instead of 50 or more years.
Gacaca courts were established as smaller courts that charged criminals of crimes against humanity, such as grave assault and murder.The idea behind the establihment of Gacaca courts or village courts was to resolve issues and restore justice. During the trial process, which are held in public, survivors or the victims’ families confront the accused. The accused or defendant could either maintain his or her innocence or plead guilty. The villagers, on the other hand, could either speak in favor or against the defendant. It is the intention and purpose of the Gacaca courts to prove the guilt of accused or offer reconciliation to both the accused and the family’s victims or survivor.
Specifically, the Gacaca courts were founded to gather information related to the genocide, categorize individuals as either genocidaires or accomplices, and try cases which fall under their jurisdiction. In 2012, convicts of the 1991 Rwandan genocide reached 65%; many of them are serving life sentences while others render one to three decades of incarceration. In that same year, the Gacaca courts where done with their decade long works and were closed down. The final accomplishment reports of these courts will be divulged between 2014-2015 . Only after the final report could their be satisfaction or discontentment regarding the performance made by the Gacaca courts. In reiteration, the establishment of the Gacaca Courts were meant primarily for rendering justice, restoring peace, and reconciling Hutus or Tutsis.
Despite the existence of the Gacaca courts to try genocidal acts against humanity, it has met various criticisms. Some of these include the decisions made, less protection in this type of traditional courts, intimidations and false accusations from witnesses of both sides, unrealiability of witnesses’ memories after several years of the trial process, large number of unfounded trials, and so on. Despite anthing to the contrary, the Gacaca courts played a significant role as a grassroot level justice system . It nonetheless contributed to providing settlements, condemning the guilty, promoting collaboration among Rwandans and the internation community, that is, whether they are part of the judicial proceedings, victims, survivors, judges, or are simply spectators.
• How can forgiveness in a court system rebuild a nation?
Forgiveness in a court system can rebuild a nation by rendering justice and fairness, shaming the offenders, and promoting reconciliation between the victim and the offender. From a juridical point of view, it is always possible to seek forgiveness as part of the healing process despite past inhumane actions. Any offending parties must be held accountable, pay for damages, serve their sentence, and seek the forgiveness of their victims and families . Forgiveness should start at the individual or group level, depending on the gravity of people’s offense. Just like in the 1991 Rwandan genocide, acts against humanity, issues, disputes, and other conflicts should be resolved either informally or fomarly in a court of law.
For forgiveness in a court system rebuild a nation, defendants, victims/survivors, witnesses, well-respected villagers (Inyangamugayo), lawyers, and judges undergo the trial process. Evidences are presented during the trial of the case. Depending on solid evidences, the defendant could either be pronounced guilty or not beyond reasonable doubt. Because there are evidences, witnesses, and law experts, any verdict may be an indication to end the proceedings and render a judgment. Although there are loopholes during the deliberation of any particular case, such as false accounts and falsified proofs, people should trust the law. The reason for this concern is that the agrieved party may still appeal to a higher court (that is, Gacaca court to the Rwandan national court).
One could ask what good is a court system for if it does not function to rebuild a nation? Through a judicial court, justice should equate to fairness and subsequently forgiveness; otherwise, the victims or community concerned will remain fearful and bitter. There are always ways to prevent the ripple effects of hurts, assaults, or crimes through forgiveness and not through revenge. Hence, it is important that individual, communal, and national bonds remain intact by means of forgiveness, which is simply the healthiest and strongest relationship for the prevention of recurrent injustices.
Accompanying forgiveness in a court system to rebuild a nation is to allow for restorative justice where the focus is not simply incarcerating wrongdoers, but also to focus on the victims’ needs . A court must determine the gravity of the offense made, identify corrective and preventive measures to be instituted, and ascribe personal responsibility to the offenders to their victims and community for crimes done. There is also a need to conduct victims-offenders dialogues or post-conferences for the possibility for forgiveness, which does not simply equate to letting an offender off-the-hook, but concerns matter of national interest such as in the Rwanda genocide.
Herrmann, J. (2012). A Critical Analysis of the Transitional Justice Measures Incorporated by Rwandan Gacaca and Their Effectiveness. James Cook University Law Review(19), 90-112.
Manyok, P. (2013, February 28). Gacaca Justice System: Rwanda Quest for Justice in the post Genocide Era. Retrieved from Peace and Collaborative Development Network: http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/profiles/blogs/gacaca-justice-system-rwanda-quest-for-justice-in-the-post#.UgHfotKj2Sp
Morgan, S. (2012). Rwanda: Global Experts in Large Scale Restorative Justice. Ethos, 20(1), 7-13.
Mukashema, I., & Mullet, E. (2013). Unconditional Forgiveness, Reconciliation Sentiment, and Mental Health Among Victims of Genocide in Rwanda. Social Indicators Research, 113(1), 121-132.
Wolfe, S. (Mar2012). After Genocide: Examining the Aftermath and Implications of the Rwandan Genocide. H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences, 1-4.