The National Jurisdiction for Gacaca Courts has launched a Gacaca week campaign to sensitize the Rwandan community about the achievements and activities conducted by the semi-traditional genocide courts which were charged with trying genocide cases during the last ten years.
Gacaca judicial systems were introduced in 1999 after a series of high-level consultative meetings by government and judicial experts. The courts were established as the only way to deal with the number of genocide cases, which could not be dealt with in conventional courts- which has also been weakened after many practitioners either having fallen victims of the Genocide or implicated and fled.
The campaign has been launched ahead of the official signing off of operation of Gacaca jurisdictions slated for June 18, 2012. The courts have managed to try close to two million cases. The Gacaca jurisdiction will also celebrate the tenth anniversary on the same day.
As days get close, Domitille Mukantaganzwa the Executive Secretary of the National Jurisdiction for Gacaca Courts says that the operations of the courts have been a successful story, though it was not an easy task along the ten years.
A report by the Rwanda Human Rights Commission indicates that a survey carried out between 2002 and 2008, established that 95 per cent of the Genocide cases were fairly judged in Gacaca courts.
Gacaca courts used a total of 160,000 judges, and over 46,000 Gacaca judges were dropped and later tried and convicted by the same tribunals to which they sat as judges, for their roles in the 1994 Genocide; while a total 483 judges were found to be corrupt during the Gacaca proceedings, mainly bribed by relatives of the suspects to acquit or pass lenient verdicts.
Over 1.6 million suspects were convicted, while 270,000 were acquitted. Over 75,000 suspects were tried and convicted in absentia. The majority of the cases - 1.2 million - fell in the third category, which involved suspects accused of crimes of a relatively lesser magnitude such as looting and destruction of property.
The first category comprised the planners, organizers, instigators, leaders and supervisors of the Genocide, as well as those who raped; while the second category included those who participated in physical attacks that resulted into death.
The Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, said that despite criticism, the Gacaca courts are a success story in Rwanda, and without this traditional system of Justice it would have taken the country over 300 years to try all Genocide cases under the classical court system.
Gacaca courts used a total budget of about Rwf30 billion, which is equivalent to about 2.5 per cent of the funds used by the UN International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) budget, which has handled less than 100 cases in 15 years. The ICTR court based in Arusha will also close doors this July, 2012, and become a residual tribunal.