Overcrowded prison after the Rwanda genocide

Rwanda Law, Order and Security

Immediately after 1994, the establishment of political stability was the top priority of the state leadership. President Paul Kagame’s government is committed to national unity. As the ruling party, his RPF has a firm grip on the country. It is noteworthy that the integration of refugee Hutu and formerly exiled Tutsi has worked. The legal and social reappraisal of the genocide remains the most important social issue alongside the economic reconstruction of the country.

To this day, the relatives of the victims of the genocide, on the one hand, demand justice and compensation, and opposition forces, on the other, demand certainty about the role of the RPF’s then liberation army. They also accuse the rulers of unjust treatment, particularly with victims, who were also complained of on the part of the Hutu ethnic group.

According to computerannals, as a result of the 1994 genocide, the Rwandan government built a fundamentally new judicial system. New legal and administrative framework conditions were introduced. Accordingly, consisting judicial institutions from the Supreme Court (Supreme Court), the high courts of the Republic (High Courts of the Republic), the provincial courts (Provincial Courts), the courts of districts (District Courts) and mediation councils (Mediation Committee). In addition, special facilities such as the so-called gacaca dishes were created which are characteristic of the judicial system in Rwanda. These new institutions were initiated in order to face the particularly difficult situation of the post-conflict period.

In Rwanda, classic courts had only passed around 10,000 judgments in the first 10 years after the genocide. Up until then, 80,000 suspects were still in prison. It quickly became clear that the existing judicial system would take up to 100 years to meet the expectations of the judiciary. In the absence of alternatives and pragmatic necessity, the government decided in 1999 to revitalize the so-called “Gacaca”, a traditional form of legal proceedings. This new attempt by the government to establish the truth and punish the perpetrators was additionally given the difficult task of comprehensively coming to terms with reconciling aspects. The gacaca procedures came about with great difficulty.

After a pilot phase, 11,000 gacaca dishes were operating across the country. In 2006, these often controversial village courts entered the decision-making phase and at that time cast their long shadow over the peaceful coexistence of the population that was sought. There was a risk that the courts would be used as the setting for personal revenge campaigns or for the personal economic benefit of individuals. Indeed, some controversial judgments repeatedly raised doubts.

In June 2012, the Gacaca tribunals completed their work. While the Rwandan government is satisfied with the results, the opinions of the critics on the subject differ significantly from this stance. The sentences for convicts varied between life imprisonment and reparation payments or community service.

In November 1994 the UN judged the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for the masterminds of the genocide) in Arusha in the north of neighboring Tanzania. So far, 75 (16 of whom are still on appeal) out of a total of 98 defendants (9 of whom are still at large) have been convicted, twelve defendants have been acquitted and two released for lack of evidence. Two other defendants did not survive the trial (as of February 2014). After the tribunal’s temporary activity had already been extended, its task ended at the end of 2014. Only ongoing processes are brought to the end. Pending court cases are mostly transferred to the Rwandan national courts. The cooperation between the ICTR and the state of Rwanda has been problematic from the time the tribunal was founded until recently. During the post-conflict years, the judicial system has been subjected to continuous reforms, not least to ensure that genocide suspects who are still wanted can be extradited from their respective countries of residence. Extradition requests have long been rejected on the grounds that defendants in Rwanda would not expect a fair trial. The efforts of the government have recently gained increasing support from the international community.

In September 2011 the European Court of Justice gave its first approval. In an appeal against the extradition of a Rwandan citizen from Sweden, the court confirmed that the requirements for extradition of Rwandan citizens were met.

On January 24, 2012, the Canadian state transferred the Rwandan citizen Léon Mugesera to the Rwandan judiciary in a prominent case. Mugesera, as deputy chairman of the former ruling party MRND, is accused of having incited the population to commit genocide against the Tutsi in his public hate speech. The International Court of Justice for Rwanda in Arusha had already handed over a genocide defendant to the Rwandan judiciary in early 2012.

Another sign of international recognition is the termination clause of the UN Refugee Convention, which revokes refugee status for Rwandans. The revocation of refugee status for Rwandans by the UN Refugee Commission (UNHCR) indicates that fundamental and lasting changes have occurred in Rwanda As a result, refugees do not have to fear persecution on their return. However, this decision has been criticized by human rights organizations.

Overcrowded prison after the Rwanda genocide

About the author