Ben Buchwalter


How Restorative is Rwanda’s Justice?
November 22, 2009, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Foreign Affairs, Mother Jones, Race | Tags: , ,

July 17, 2009

Back in July, the US loaned Rwanda $44 million to continue its multi-layered restorative justice system that was implemented to help the central African country come to terms with the 1994 genocide which killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Unfortunately, as I wrote for Mother Jones, this admirable goal has so far not lived up to its potential because the Tutsi-led government has too often used it for revenge rather than justice. A preview:

Gacaca, literally “on the grass,” is a restorative system which allows perpetrators responsible for crimes including isolated murder and destruction of property during the genocide to decrease their prison sentences if they plead guilty, apologize, and agree to supplement their shortened jail time with community service. But the gacaca courts have been instructed by the RPF to focus only on crimes that occurred during a limited timeframe, most of which were committed by Hutus. During the protracted civil war that preceded the genocide, though, The Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Army was also responsible for murder, rape, and destruction of Hutu property. Also, gacaca judges are untrained and elected by the community, which raises concerns about international standards of due process and impartiality.

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