Genocide in Rwanda
The Gacaca system
and the International Criminal
Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights was founded in 1977. It
is a member of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
(IHF) whose aim is to monitor state compliance with the standards of
the Helsinki Act, subsequent Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE, previously CSCE) human rights related documents and
international human rights standards. The IHF has a consultative
status with the UN.
Rwanda is outside of the geographical scope of the Norwegian Helsinki
Committee, the organisation decided to send a fact-finding mission to
study the efforts of the government of Rwanda to promote
reconciliation after the 1994 genocide. A second aim of the mission
was to evaluate the functioning of the International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda (ICTR), which was established by the UN Security Council in
Norwegian Helsinki Committee has since early 1990s promoted
accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes in the wars
of the former Yugoslavia and in other conflict areas within the OSCE
region. Since 1997 it has been involved in international NGO work to
campaign for the establishment of a permanent international criminal
court. As a supplement to these efforts, the Committee decided to
study national and international efforts to facilitate prosecution of
the 1994 genocide and promote reconciliation in Rwanda.
M. Karlsen and Sylo Taraku researched the report. The Norwegian
Helsinki Committee wants to thank the students of The University
College of Buskerud, Vibeke Jonassen, Tone Ellefsrud and Arild
Jonassen for help in the collection of data.
report was written by Sylo Taraku and edited by Gunnar M. Karlsen.
Table of contents
settlements after massive abuses of human rights are regarded as means
to achieve peace and reconciliation. Even if international legal
settlements are a relatively new phenomenon, national settlements have
existed throughout history. Justice has not always been the main goal.
Traditionally, the states have chosen different ways to handle a
traumatic past. Strategies include legal settlements, truth
commissions, compensation, amnesty, or simply not doing anything at
approximately one million people killed during three months in
April-July 1994, the genocide in Rwanda was one of the most extensive
of the 20th century. The international community did too
little to prevent the genocide, but wanted through establishing the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (the Arusha Tribunal), to
prosecute the main architects of the genocide and thereby contribute
to the revival of peace and reconciliation. The Tribunal may also
contribute to the development of international legal practice for the
prosecution of individuals for crimes against international
At the same time, the Rwandan authorities are
conducting a much more extensive legal settlement. More than one
hundred thousand suspects are held in overloaded prisons in Rwanda
waiting for trials. In order to face this great challenge, the
authorities have introduced “popular courts”, called “Gacaca”.
This process is also a part of the country’s strategy to achieve
national unity and reconciliation.
This report focuses on the two parallel legal
settlements of Rwanda and their challenges. The report is based on the
Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s study trip to Rwanda and Tanzania in
February 2002. The trip included interviews with representatives of
Rwandan authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), religious
leaders, academics, students, journalists, people accused of genocide,
representatives of international organizations, and ordinary people.
The delegation from the Helsinki Committee followed, in short
sequences, several ongoing cases at the Arusha Tribunal and
interviewed representatives from the three units of the Tribunal: the
court chambers, the prosecution and the administration, as well as
independent observers. In addition, the report is based upon a variety
of relevant international reports and studies.
is among the most densely populated and poorest countries in Africa.
Approximately eight million people inhabit an area of 26,338 square
remained relatively inconspicuous until the country in 1994 suffered
one of the most atrocious genocides of the 20th
century. In the course of three months from April to July
approximately one million people were killed and tens
of thousands of women were raped.
discover the reasons for what happened in 1994 and to understand the
background of today’s settlement in Rwanda, both on a national and
on an international level, we need to take a closer look at the
country and its earlier and recent history.
which means ”the people of Rwanda”, traditionally consists of
three ”population groups”: Bahutu, Batutsi, and Batwa, simplified
in the West as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa.
Traditionally all of them belong to 18 different clans, unrelated to
whether they are Hutu, Tutsi or Twa.
Banyarwandans have lived together for hundreds of years, but despite a
common language and shared religious traditions, there exist tiny
cultural differences that reflect historical rather than ethnic or
Rwanda it is usually said that the Tutsis were nomadic cattle herders
from the Nile delta, who during the 15th century moved
southwest with their cattle. The explanations differ. A common version
has it that Tutsi clans settled between Lake Victoria to the east and
the Sea of Kivu to the west. They were militarily, economically and
culturally strong. The Hutus wandered southwards from the west of the
African continent at the beginning of the second millennium AD. They
established an agricultural base.
Twas are the aboriginals of Rwanda and traditionally have lived from
hunting and gathering. In more recent times they represent about one
per cent of the population. For some time, there was some mobility
between the groups. Every Rwandan would be called a Tutsi, provided
only that he owned more than a certain number of cattle. A poor Tutsi
could fall back into the position of a small peasant and be called
Hutu. Due to mixed marriages it is sometimes difficult to see the
difference between a Hutu and a Tutsi. In Rwanda, people born from
mixed marriages were often called “Hutsi”, and several cases are
known where Hutus were killed during the genocide because they looked
like Tutsis, or where Tutsis survived because they looked like Hutus.
early history of Rwanda is hard to document because there are no
written sources. All history has been passed on through a rich oral
tradition at the royal court. From the year 1506 Rwanda was a kingdom
and the king, or Mwami, was a Tutsi.
At the Berlin Conference in 1885, Rwanda-Urundi was given to Germany as a part of German East Africa. For tactical reasons, the Germans chose to govern through the existing administrative structures. In 1916, during World War I, Belgium invaded Rwanda-Urundi and formally took over the administration of the country trough a mandate from the League of Nations in 1923.
social divide between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority was
strengthened during the period of Belgian colonialism. The
colonial power brought in the concept of two races and ethnic
population groups. Every person was registered according to his
ethnicity. The Belgians governed the country through the Tutsis who
represented the social elite. But following claims for independence
from the Tutsis at the end of the 50s, the Belgians turned and
supported Hutu rebels against the Tutsis.
the 1960 elections the Hutu party PARMEHUTU
(Parti du Mouvement de I’Émanipation) won an unexpected victory, and shortly after which the King was removed
from power. Rwanda was proclaimed a Republic on 28 January 1961.
won its independence in 1962, and Grégoire Kayibanda (one
of the founders of PARMEHUTU) headed its first government. He lost power in 1973 when general Juvénal
Habyarimana proclaimed himself president following a military coup.
governed the country for 21 years to his death in 1994. He
concentrated on building a tough dictatorship, based on a one-party
system. Habyarimana himself led the only permitted party, i.e. The
National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND). Party
membership was obligatory for all citizens of the country from birth.
International pressure led to Habyarimana’s opening up for a
multi-party system in 1990, which resulted in the establishment of
several opposition parties.
the same year, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF,
launched attacks on the regime and civil war broke out. The
organization had with increasing strength claimed the right of return
to Rwanda for Tutsi refugees. The Ugandan rebel leader Yoweri Musevini
had trained many young Rwandan refugees, who helped him take power in
Kampala in 1986. In this way, the RPF developed an army ready for
battle, which was probably stronger than the army of the regime in
Kigali. The quick advance of the RPF in 1990 was halted due to the
French intervention and support for Habyarimana’s regime.
several failed attempts to secure a cease-fire, an attempt to end the
civil war was made through the Arusha agreement of 4 August 1993
between the government of Rwanda and RPF. According to the agreement,
an interim government consisting of members of the President’s
party, the opposition parties and RPF should be established within 37
days and stay in power until free elections were to be held at the end
of 1995. Parts of RPF should be incorporated into the regular army of
The Tutsi refugees should be allowed to return home. The agreement
foresaw the presence of a neutral international force of 2 500 men,
who were to observe the implementation of the agreement. However, the
agreement was never implemented, probably because extreme powers
within the regime in Kigali disliked the idea of sharing power.
Instead of implementing the Arusha agreement, the regime worked at
full force on preparations for “the final solution”
of the conflict with the Tutsis.
6 April 1994, “unknown perpetrators” shot down the plane carrying
President Juvénal Habyarimana. This episode was used as an excuse for
starting the killing of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The mass murders
lasted for three months, until RPF established control over the entire
country and put the genocide-regime to flight. Approximately one
million people were killed and tens of thousands of women were raped
during the genocide. Most of them were slaughtered with machetes and
clubs in their homes, on the street, in churches and in work places.
Death lists were being used, and many neighbours took part in the
killing. The genocide was planned and organized by the government
party, the army (the Rwandan Armed Forces - FAR) and the militia
together with mayors and leaders of sectors and cells. The purpose was
to exterminate the Tutsis and opponents of the government among the
Hutus. But the genocide regime also received help from several church
leaders, intellectuals and the media, while at the same time the
international community acted passively and did too little to stop the
is agreed that the media must bear a heavy responsibility in relation
to the genocide. One of the most central and infamous participants was
the radio station RLTM (Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines).
This radio station told all “true Rwandans” to murder the Tutsis
of the country. The station, which was established in 1993 by members
of the Akazu clan, called the Tutsis “inyensi”, cockroaches, which
were to be killed, and played Hutu-nationalistic pop music. “Make
sure the cockroaches don’t get through”, “the graves are only
half full, who are going to fill them?” the radio station asked its
listeners in spring 1994.
media’s role in the genocide is having a legal aftermath both in
Rwanda and at the Arusha Tribunal. The case against one of the
founders of RTLM, the former state secretary Jean Bosco Barayagwiza,
the assisting director of the station, Ferdinand Nahimana, and Hassan
Ngeze, editor-in-chief of the propagandistic hate-newspaper Kangura
started in Arusha on 11 April 2002. One of the most well known voices
of the RTLM was Valerie Bemeriki. Today she is in jail in Kigali and
rejects all accusations of complicity in the genocide: “We had to
use the radio station to protect our people.”
religious community of Rwanda does not escape responsibility for the
genocide – this is particularly true when it comes to the dominating
Catholic Church. In certain cases, priests did try to protect Tutsi
civilians, but all in all, the Church has deceived the Tutsis, and in
many cases it also has participated in the genocide.
How was this possible? Reverend Eustache Amani Karangua thinks that
the participating priests were not “real” Christians.
a lot of people accepted Christianity to achieve advantages, not
because they had actually turned to Christianity. You had to be a
Catholic to get an education or a good job. Christian faith opened
doors. In a poor country it is easy to manipulate people the way the
Church wants to. In this way one became a Catholic – a living of
priests have been arrested and charged with participating in the
genocide. Two nuns (Gertrude Mukangango and Kisito Mukabutera) have
been sentenced for genocide by a Belgian court on 8 June 2001.
A suspected priest was under protection of the Vatican, but after
heavy pressure that he would be evicted he later surrendered
“voluntarily” to the Arusha Tribunal.
are no simple explanations to this complex question. Many factors have
made the genocide possible, and this is in itself worth a study. Now
we know a lot about what really happened, thanks to human rights
reports from the organisations Africa Rights, “Rwanda: Death and
and Human Rights Watch’ “Leave none to tell the story”
(published in 1999), with a number of empirical facts. The Arusha
Tribunal has also contributed with many facts through its rulings.
There are fewer theoretical analyses on a macro level. Peter Uvin in
his article “Reading the Rwandan Genocide” explores three popular
paradigms that try to explain the genocide:
Scarcity of ecological resources
Socio-psychological features of the perpetrators.
focus respectively on political leaders and macro level political
trends, on macro level ecological and demographic trends, and on macro
level socio-cultural features of Rwandan society.
most common explanation in Rwanda is the desire of Rwanda’s elite to
stay in power. The birth of political opposition, RPF invasion in 1990
and subsequent civil war, and international pressure for power sharing
and democratisation are among the factors that threatened the power
and the privileges of Rwanda’s elite. This elite consisting of
powerful people around president Habyarimana (the so called Akazu-clan),
as well as other cronies in the administration and the army – used
all means at its disposal, including racism and violence, to fend off
threats to its survival and privileges.
scarcity of ecological resources – with the highest population
density in Africa for an almost entirely rural country, coupled with
one of Africa’s highest population growth rates – constitutes the
root cause of the genocide.
Socio-Psychological Features of the Perpetrators
set of explanations refers to socio-psychological and cultural
dynamics. The most commonly heard argument is that the
“unquestioning”, “obedient” or “conformist” nature of the
Rwandan “traditional” mentality made Rwandans especially inclined
to follow orders from above, including orders to slaughter their
The famous Rwandan anthropologist Philibert Kagabo sees the genocide
as politically, not ethnically founded, because Rwandans are one
tragedy was the world's tragedy. All of us who cared about Rwanda, all
of us who witnessed its suffering, fervently wish that we could have
prevented the genocide. Looking back now, we see the signs, which then
were not recognised. Now we know that what we did was not nearly
enough--not enough to save Rwanda from itself, not enough to honour
the ideals for which the United Nations exists. We will not deny that,
in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda.
Annan, Kigali, 7 May 1998.)
international community was not able to prevent genocide and crimes
against the people of Rwanda, but later showed the will to prosecute
those responsible. The Rwandan regime together with its supporters
must bear the main responsibility for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but
the international community must take some of the blame for not
interfering in accordance with the Genocide Convention.
Both the UN and the countries that may have had influence over what
happened, carry a great responsibility for letting the genocide happen
before their eyes. This especially concerns France, Belgium and, not
least, the USA.
genocide regime with its militia managed unhindered to carry out their
genocide plans although the UN already had an international peace
force in Rwanda – United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR)
– which was placed there in accordance with Security Council
resolution 872 of October 1993 with the aim of helping the parties
implement the Arusha Accords.
UN has later admitted its mistakes in connection with the 1994
genocide in Rwanda. A UN investigating committee was established in
April 1999, five years after the genocide. The commission, headed by
former Swedish prime minister Ingvar Carlsson,
concluded in its report on December 15th 1999 that the UN had betrayed
the genocide victims in Rwanda and therefore had to apologise to the
survivors: “This (UN) failure has left deep wounds within Rwandan
society (...) these are wounds which need to be healed, for the sake
of the people of Rwanda and for the sake of the United Nations”.
investigation concludes that the main mistake of the international
community was the lack of resources and political will, including
misjudging the extent of the events in Rwanda. Another unfortunate
circumstance mentioned in the report is that perpetrators of genocide
in Kigali were members of the Security Council and took part in the
discussion on the actions towards Rwanda.
addition to the UN, Belgium and France have also started
investigations to map their own part and responsibilities in
connection with the genocide. The USA has not done that, but the
American president at the time, Bill Clinton, apologised to the
surviving Rwandans for USA's failure to take action to prevent the
genocide. Belgium has done the same thing. A responsibility rests on
Belgium for having pulled out its own forces and having led a total
withdrawal of the UN forces when Rwanda needed international
the USA an intervention was not even seriously debated. The killing of
Belgian soldiers reminded the Americans of the fiasco in Somalia and
intervention became a non-subject – in resemblance to an eventual
participation in a UN-operation.
also carries responsibility having militarily and politically
supported the genocide regime in Kigali for a long time and for not
having put enough pressure on the regime to stop the genocide – even
when the French knew, with their contacts and intelligence
information, what might happen to Tutsis and government opponents
among the Hutus.
French parliamentary commission closed in December 1998 a nine-month
investigation on France's part before and during the genocide in
UN's mistakes in Rwanda have left deep marks in the world organisation.
In a statement of December 16th 1999, the UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan welcomed the recommendations of the UN investigation report on
how the UN can prevent a repetition of “Rwanda” in the future.
RPF brought the genocide to a halt during summer 1994, most of the
social structure was reduced to a state of ruin. Practically
everything had to be rebuilt from scratch. Public offices were
abandoned, stripped of equipment and documents. The situation was
chaotic. A great number of public servants had been killed. A lot of
the people, who worked for the old regime, were urged to come back to
work. It was necessary in order to get the country back on tracks.
The genocide left 500,000 orphans and 400,000 widows.
situation in Rwanda right after the genocide was characterised by
trauma, need and chaos. The RPF leadership and Paul Kagame’s closest
associates declared that reconciliation was of the highest priority.
It was stressed as a first step that the RPF leadership would not take
a leading position, excluding other parties, when they vanquished the
Hutu regime in 1994. With the Arusha Agreement as a starting point,
the RPF, together with other political parties, formed a coalition
government – The Government of National Unity – with the Hutu
Pasteur Bizimungu as President. In spring 2002, eight political
parties were represented in Parliament with a total of 74
representatives. Only 13 of these were from RPF. The government
consists of six parties. Dr Charles Murigande, secretary general of
RPF said: “Everybody
expected that we would establish a regime by ourselves. We refused to
fall into that trap. We wish to unite the country.”
National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (URC), which was
established by the Parliamentary Law in 1999, plays an important role in building national unity. The
Commission’s role in the process of creating a Rwanda for everybody
is to create a well-functioning education system, to fight poverty and
to develop a common identity without differences. “Rwanda has learnt
its lesson. From now on everybody is a Rwandan, nothing more, nothing
less”, says Patrick Mazihmaka, President Paul Kagame’s personal
6 and 7 March 2001 more than four million Rwandans took
part in the first local elections for 37 years. The Rwandan National
Commission (NEC) reported that more than 90% of registered voters took
part in the elections in which 112 district councils were elected.
political parties contested the elections, and the voters could cross
out candidates; hence self-appointed former leaders were not
automatically elected. There were three lists of candidates, one with
youths, one with women and one with mayor candidates. Hence, youths
and women were elected to the local councils on a quota basis.
several political parties exist, the law forbids political
campaigning. The process of drafting a new constitution is ongoing.
The Constitutional Commission was elected by the National Assembly and
is regularly consulting with the population about different issues
concerning the Constitution. The people will take their stand on the
final draft of the new Constitution in a referendum in 2003. It has
been announced that the same year an election for a new national
assembly will be held and also a presidential election. Tito
Rutaremara, leader of the Constitutional Commission, says that the new
Constitution is one of the aims to reach unity and reconciliation.
“What we want is a democracy that does not promote conflicts. But
our country is poor and this is a difficult and time-consuming
if the human rights situation in Rwanda has drastically improved for
the last years, the country is still facing severe challenges. Ruben
Niybizi, secretary of the human rights organization LIPRODHOR, claims
that freedom of speech is the civil-political right facing the biggest
challenge. Intellectuals may criticize current events, but, according
to Niybizi, individuals neither have the opportunity nor dare to
express themselves, because people are still frightened after the
of FACT, a youth organization working against torture, confirm this.
They also say that torture happens in Rwandan prisons, even though it
is not widespread. FACT urges the authorities to ratify the Torture
are several human rights groups and NGOs in Rwanda today, among these
an organization working for the rights of widows. In addition, the
Parliament has established a Human Rights Commission that monitors
human rights. Even though the Commission is governmental, its reports
contain amounts of criticism of the authorities. In addition to the
freedom of speech, major problems include public security, prison
conditions, mistreatment and political killings.
educational system has gone through extensive reforms, and weighs
heavily in the reconciliation process. The primary school is now
obligatory and free for everybody. Racist elements in schools have
been removed to promote national unity. New history books are being
written, but there is a considerable amount of tension attached to the
problem of establishing a common history that everybody can agree
The authorities have declared that the children are not supposed to
learn the history of the conquerors.
doubling of the population is expected in the next 20 years, to an
estimated 16 million people. Considering the rapid growth of the
population, the efforts towards building a proper educational system
seem especially important. Good schools are important to fight
poverty, but the country needs international help to be able to handle
tragic past is still present in Rwanda, but conspicuously toned down.
Everybody has relatives that were either killed or who joined the mob.
According to the Rector at the University of Butare, Dr. Emile
Rwamasirabo it is naive to believe that the hatred is gone as if by
magic after the genocide, and points out that all students must attend
a six week course on reconciliation before starting their studies.
One of the greatest challenges faced by the new authorities after the 1994 genocide was to stabilise the situation. One of the most urgent questions was how to deal with the perpetrators of genocide. The police force and the judicial system were completely put out of action during the genocide. Investigators, police lawyers, defenders and judges were eliminated or fled, and only a few stayed behind. About 130.000 suspects were imprisoned, a lot of them without being charged. The intent was criminal prosecution, but the massive arrests were also meant to prevent new assaults and to quench the thirst of revenge. The situation became critical. Overcrowded prisons led to the neglect of the most vital human rights, even the right to life. An unknown number of people died, most likely from torture, diseases or lack of food. But the absence of a proper legal system made the needed prosecutions difficult.
is divided into 12 counties, further divided into municipalities. A
report written by The Norwegian People’s Aid describes the court
system as follows:
de Canton: In every
municipality. A stipendiary magistrate judges the civil cases and
smaller cases without prosecutor and defender.
de première Instanse: Judicial authority on
the county level. After the genocide it took several years to restore
all these tribunals. Judges in civil cases which appeals from court of
the first instance and in larger criminal cases. Prosecutor, but not
defender in every case.
d'Appel: There are four of these courts of appeal in Rwanda,
each of which covers several counties.
country's Supreme Court, which sits in Kigali.
addition: Chambre Spesiale: Special Court for the genocide in
court of appeal was absent for a long time in several areas, leaving
genocide sentences unfinished. The Norwegian People’s Aid is one of
many international organisations that have contributed with expertise
to rebuild the judicial system. Rwanda only had a small number of
lawyers before the genocide, almost none in 1994, and as late as the
middle of 1997 there were only 50 lawyers. In the Cyangugu County
where The Norwegian People’s Aid contributed, there were no lawyers
at the time.
meet the precarious shortage of lawyers, the University of Butare
produced lawyers with the speed of lightening. The genocide cases
gradually started: 346 were sentenced in 1997, 1318 in 1999 and 600 in
the first quarter of 2000, something Rwandan authorities describes as
extraordinary, but it was far from satisfactory considering the great
number of cases.
of February 2002, approximately 15.000 of the about 130.000 people
imprisoned after the genocide, have been released. About 6000 have
been put on trial so far, of which 20-25 per cent have been released.
The high number of releases indicates that many of the remaining
110.000 also will go free.
people have been executed so far. This has relieved some of the
pressure from popular demands for the most extreme kind of revenge.
The Prosecution estimates that 3.000 or maybe as many as 5.000-10.000
people will be sentenced to death, but the death sentence will only be
used for the most serious cases. Public Prosecutor Gerhald Gahima
thinks that the worst perpetrators deserve the law's maximum penalty
– death, but it may hurt the reconciliation process if all the
people sentenced to death are actually executed. In addition Rwanda
runs the risk of massive international criticism.
is already subject to heavy criticism concerning prison conditions.
But Tito Rutaremara of the RPF reckons that Rwanda's current legal
system is not able to handle the large number of cases and that a
delayed legal settlement may hurt the reconciliation process. He
replies to the criticism in this way:
is a poor country. The human rights in our prisons are nothing to brag
about. The prisoners are suffering, but what is the alternative? We
cannot let them out, but we cannot really keep them in now either. To
follow the western trial process would take far too long time and
therefore be a violation of the human rights itself. We had to do
legal system in Rwanda was not designed to respond to the massive
violence during the genocide in 1994. The country did not have the
capacity to prosecute the enormous number of suspects; it would have
taken several hundred years to finish all the trials. “Justice
delayed is justice denied” it is said. As a consequence the
authorities formed the popular tribunals, the Gacaca.
Gacaca has traditionally been a conflict-solving council used for
centuries before the colonial times, to solve local and regional
conflicts. A modernised version has from mid-2002 started to relieve
the ordinary legal settlement. Gacaca will involve perpetrators,
victims and the whole local population in the legal process. The goal
is not only to assist the ordinary justice system to finish all the
cases but also to heal wounds, to bring forth the truth, to create
justice, and to contribute in the reconciliation process.
election was held in October 2001 in which the people elected about
250.000 Gacaca-judges, men and women. They are the "Inyangamugayo",
the people of integrity. 781 Gacaca instructors, judges and last
year’s law students, trained them. The three-month training finished
in July 2002, when the Gacaca processes started.
around 300 pilot trials have been held, so called “gaca-cases”,
around the country, which have resulted in several releases.
Considerable amounts of people were held imprisoned without
documentation about their imprisonment. These prisoners were taken
before the people through hearings similar to the Gacaca. If they were
accused of anything worth consideration of suspicion, they were
returned to prison to be tried in front of the Gacaca. In cases
without any accusations, the prisoners could walk into the crowd as
free persons after years of imprisonment.
Gacaca will operate on four levels: from cell, sector, municipality
and county. A cell is the smallest administrative unit of the country.
In Rwanda, there are approximately 9000 such cells. On the cell level,
all citizens over the age of 18 constitute a general assembly. If a
cell has more than 200 members, it has to be split in two, but no cell
can have less than 50 members. The main task of the assembly is to
make a list of which members of the cell who were killed as a result
of the genocide, but also of the killers, and in the same way both the
raped and the rapists. In addition, the cell shall prepare a list of
who has moved away from the cell. The general assembly elects a
council of 19 members. The “Secteur”, “District” and
“Province”-levels in the Gacaca system are organized in the same
way, with general assemblies consisting of members from the level
below. Here a council of 19 members is also elected.
Organic Law of 1996 categorises the prisoners into four categories
based on the seriousness of the crimes they have been accused of
and decides on which levels their cases are going to be held. Gacaca
is going to handle the cases connected to the genocide in the period
October 1st 1990 to December 31st, 1994.
The four categories
one: Those who planned, organised and led the genocide,
together with mass murderers, rapists and torturers. These people will
be dealt with by the ordinary judicial system. Only the ones belonging
to this first category can be sentenced to death. A confession may
reduce the sentence.
three: Those who participated in serious infringements
against people, without killing. The Gacacas on sector-level will
treat these cases, which will be punished with a shorter sentence,
half in prison and half as community service.
four: Those who participated in the destruction or
plundering of property. These cases will be treated by the lowest
Gacaca tribunal on cell-level and may be punished by paying
compensation to the victims (art. 14d).
on the county level is the instance of appeal for all the three lower
already noted, the Gacaca judges will not be able to sentence people
to death, and confessing pays off. The strategy of the prosecutors is
to first handle the cases of those who confess.
They are of first priority in the Gacaca process, as a nail bar on
those who do not confess. These will later be important witnesses
against those who claim not guilty. The authorities expect more
prisoners to see the advantage of confessing and avoid death penalty,
something that will make the legal process easier.
Gacaca judges are supposed to judge by consensus, attached to
traditions from before the colonisation. Centuries before the
colonisation the wise men of the village had gathered in the Gacaca
councils, without prosecutor or defender. Women were not allowed to
participate, but were to be consulted before decisions were made. By
consensus they solved cases involving everything from marital problems
to violence and theft. The suspect was allowed to speak, so were
villagers who could contribute to solving the case. Incompetence was
not an issue, like when the suspect was the son of one of the council
members. The council had to discuss their way to consensus anyway.
This way, his own father could judge the son.
In the Gacaca today, women are elected as judges.
Gacaca tribunals and the ordinary judiciary have a close co-operation.
The Gacaca are guided and supervised by a co-ordination committee (Comité
de Coordination) in addition to national and international NGOs to
prevent abuse of the system. An information programme has been
established to inform the people about the system and its function.
According to the plan, Internews Foundation will do some of the work.
The organisation is also involved in informing the people about the
work of the Arusha Tribunal and the ordinary court processes in
people fear that the Gacaca can be a source of new unrest, because
there are many family and social ties among witnesses, victims and
judges. Most Gacaca judges are Hutus, who form the majority of the
population. Therefore, the relatives fear unjust releases when the
suspects are neighbours or from the judges' families. Many relatives
are also worried that the Gacaca process will result in too mild
sentences for perpetrators who have committed terrible crimes. Recent
sentences are relatively low, the strictest being 17 years of
Gacaca shall be done in openness, by consensus and with the
participation of a large crowd, Kagabo says that with the historical
experiences of the Gacaca in the background, this cannot be considered
a great danger.
criticism from human rights organizations has focused the lack of
legal protection. Amnesty International criticises the legal process,
pointing that suspects do not have the right to a defender and that
judges lack sufficient competence.
But one of the reasons the Gacaca was chosen was exactly the lack of
defenders and judges. The majority of the few lawyers in Rwanda do not
wish to defend genocide suspects. In the Gacaca processes, the
prosecutor’s office will state its accusation, and then the people
who have showed up will speak for or against the accused.
accused has the right of appeal to a higher court (Gacaca on county
level). But it is still important that independent observers follow
the legal process to monitor it and give it more legitimacy. Rwandan
authorities answers the criticism by pointing out that the human
rights organisations do not give any alternatives and that the country
do not see any other solutions.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee sees the Gacaca-process as promising,
provided that it is carried through in a way that is perceived as
fair both by Hutus and Tutsis.
many already have been imprisoned for more than seven years and
because half of the sentence can be converted into community service,
a large number of inmates will probably be released relatively soon.
Many express a deep concern for the hatred innocent prisoners will
carry with them. It is described as an unpredictable volcano that can
erupt when the prisoners are let out. They are the poorest of the
poor, and many will come back to broken family structures, they may be
met with hatred from the villagers and may have trouble finding work.
Another problem will be eventual conflicts concerning the right to
land and property. Still there are many optimists who work to prevent
problems attached to these circumstances. The Norwegian Church Aid has
been among the initiators of the project Interfaith, which is
established to use the congregation's power in the service of
reconciliation. A total of 28 religious communities – both Christian
and Muslim – have joined the project for released prisoners and
survivors. Released prisoners learn how to meet survivors and ask for
forgiveness. They have also been offered classes on how to easier get
a job. There seems to have been a change of climate behind the walls
as the Gacaca process has started rolling. It has given hope, noticed
both by volunteers, inmates and the prison management in the Kigali
central prison. The inmates have not known if or when they will be
released. Now the time has come for a lot of them. Eustache Amani
Karangua, president of the Interfaith, says:
than seven years have passed since the genocide. It has been a
learning process both for the ones inside and the ones outside the
authorities have prepared the Gacaca by giving information programmes
to both the villagers and the prisoners. In addition several private
organisations, including religious ones, have run projects in the
prisons to prepare the prisoners for their reintegration to society.
The Gacaca has given the prisoners hope that their fate soon will be
from all the participants in the manslaughter are imprisoned. New
names on perpetrators are expected to appear in connection with
testimonies in the Gacaca processes. It has been estimated that as
many as 50.000 of those guilty were never arrested. Many of them will
risk arrest as the inmates are released from prisons.
Gacaca process will strain society, because it will open wounds and
represent both great possibilities, but also great dangers, say
researchers Ervin Staub and Laurie Perlman who are working on
psychosocial problems and reconciliation in Rwanda.
A large part of the population is traumatised physically and
psychologically, both among the victims and the assaulters. In
addition, many people, especially from the generation who were small
children during the genocide, may get to know the horrible truth of
what happened to their parents. The Gacaca has the potential to
contribute to healing wounds and reconciliation, but also to provoke
and renew feelings of grief, pain, anger and hatred. It is crucial
that an adequate psychosocial groundwork is done, if the process shall
have a positive effect.
Non-governmental organisations has in co-operation with the
authorities made a programme were experts are leading trauma groups,
among other things by use of radio, to follow these problems.
as a means to reach a settlement can contribute to create a feeling of
justice through repairing the emotional and physical losses and
encroachments the victims have been experiencing.
compensation for victims of genocide in Rwanda is a major challenge.
Those who participated in the killings are usually poor and unable to
pay compensation to their victims. The earlier regime is out of the
country, leaving only ruins, while the new regime is unable to pay
compensation to such a large number of victims.
it is arranged that the victims can receive compensation, which is
going to be paid by the perpetrators, but also through a state fund
– “The National Fund for Assistance to the Survivors of Genocide
and Massacres.” According to the authorities, 5% of the national
budget is being earmarked to this fund. The fund is helping victims
with shelter, medical care, education and other needs. But it is
unrealistic to believe that this will work satisfactory in Rwanda
without assistance from outside. The released prisoners on the other
hand, as it looks today, will not be paid compensation. This is
something that can cause new tension.
if the legal settlement cannot be viewed isolated from other
conditions that influence the reconciliation process, there is a
general attitude among central government officials that a lot of
things depend on a successful Gacaca process. It is emphasised that
the Gacaca is a kind of mixture of a truth commission and a judicial
authority. Amnesty, as in South Africa, would not be accepted in
In Rwanda the opinion is that an offer of a severe reduction of the
sentence will make the prisoners tell the truth and maybe also
apologise. This way one avoids amnesty, which may seem unjust to the
victims, especially in Rwanda were the assaults were so serious. In
conformity with the Truth Commission in South Africa, The Gacaca will
give the victims and the perpetrators the possibility of meeting each
other. In addition to bring forth the truth through the Gacaca, the
legal settlement will contribute to put an end to the impunity culture
that has characterised Rwanda.
gives the legal settlement a connection to the local communities,
something the Arusha Tribunal is unable to do. For the people, it is
important to see that also mayors may have to stand handcuffed in
front of the local judges. Everybody whom the Norwegian Helsinki
Committee has spoken with in Rwanda supports the Gacaca, sometimes
enthusiastically. This also includes human rights organisations, both
national and international. The Gacaca concept is well received also
by the population, including prisoners, provided it works as planned.
scepticism towards the project still exists. This is partly because of
the time it has taken to put the system in place. Many have been
imprisoned for 7 years without sentence, and thus have accumulated
lots of bitterness and anger during that time. Both Rwandan and
international lawyers are concerned about public security. Some fear
that the Gacaca will bias crimes committed by Hutus, and to a lesser
extent address Tutsi crimes in the same period.
is important that the reconciliation process includes the same people
and the same levels in society that were involved in the conflict. A
related problem can be that many people have resettled in order to
avoid punishment. Rwanda’s extensive reconstruction and settlement
programme has to a large degree contributed to this, because housing
offered through the project is not necessarily in the same cell,
sector or district as the recipient lived before the genocide. The
Gacaca cell has lesser opportunities to find out if a person is guilty
of crimes if he or she has resettled from elsewhere. Thus,
resettlement is a challenge for the Gacaca.
the same time it is important that the programme of reconciliation and
trauma treatment reaches the people, when wounds again are exposed in
this extensive legal process.
Gacaca is an answer first and foremost to a capacity problem in the
Rwandan legal system. “Gacaca is maybe not the most perfect process,
but over time we may achieve good results. This is a choice we have
made,” president Paul Kagame said during a meeting with the press in
April 2002 in Kigali.
president’s words reach the heart of the Gacaca and Rwanda’s
dilemma. Since the “Hutu-revolution” in 1959, a series of
massacres took place without punishment until the real Armageddon in
1994. Rwanda has decided to reverse this trend. Paul
Nantulya in the South-African non-governmental organisation ACCORD
describes the Gacaca as an African solution to an African problem.
In addition to the Gacaca solving a legal state of emergency, Nantulya
also sees other advantages. As a contrast to the complexity of the
ordinary legal system, the Gacaca will to a wider extent include the
locals and as a consequence have a greater chance of healing wounds
and contribute to reconciliation.
succeed with a legal settlement, it is important that the legal
process is being regarded as fair among the majority of the people.
Everyone The Norwegian Helsinki Committee have talked to in Rwanda,
has been fundamentally positive to the Gacaca. The Rwandans seem to be
proud of having found a solution in their own cultural heritage. This
may in itself be a contribution to reconciliation because it gives a
feeling of community and a common identity.
legal settlement is a big challenge for the country in addition to
education, poverty, and HIV/AIDS. A successful legal settlement is
necessary to stabilise the country and to focus on development and
democratisation. Gacaca may face many problems, but it has a great
potential in contributing to the reconciliation process. Rwanda’s
Public Prosecutor only views one possibility for the Gacaca to fail,
namely the lack of resources for a qualitative implementation. Victor
Mugarura says optimistically: “The Gacaca will solve far more
problems than it will create”.
This far, the Gacaca tribunals seem to work generally well.
UN Security Council was for a long time reluctant to acknowledge that
genocide had taken place in Rwanda, probably to avoid the commitments
following from such an acknowledgement. Only close to the end of the
genocide, on 1 July 1994, the Security Council appointed an expert
commission to investigate the claims of genocide.
Exactly three months later the first report was released, which
concluded that a systematic and planned genocide had happened. The
commission recommended that an international tribunal similar to the
one for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague should be established.
UN Security Council established “The International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda” (ICTR) on 8 October 1994, four months after the fall of
the genocide regime. The establishment was historical. This was the
first international institution established to prosecute perpetrators
in a solely internal conflict. Both the Nuremberg- and Tokyo processes
involved international conflicts. Also the wars of the former
Yugoslavian Republics in the 1990s had an international character.
was one of the initiators of the Arusha Tribunal, but voted against
the resolution because the country did not agree on the jurisdiction.
The decision to limit the Tribunal's jurisdiction to the period 1
January to 31 December 1994 was among the most controversial. Rwanda
claimed that the genocide had taken place and had been planned since
1990. This was also the conclusion of the UN Special Rapporteur
shortly before the large-scale killings started on 6 April 1994. It
was ascertained that murders of Rwandan Tutsis in the period 1990-93
constituted genocide in a judicial sense.
complaint was that the Tribunal did not have the possibility to
sentence people to death penalty, something Rwanda wished to do in
line with its own penal law. Rwanda’s third and important complaint
was that the Tribunal was to be placed outside the country’s
There were also other, less serious complaints.
Tribunal’s mandate is to investigate and prosecute persons
responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international
humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda between 1
January 1994 and 31 December 1994 or by Rwandan citizens in one of the neighbouring
countries in the same period (art. 2-4 in the statutes of the
Tribunal). Article 8 gives the Tribunal the right to take on the legal
prosecution of crimes under its jurisdiction from any state. Article 9
states that the Tribunal may retry a case that has been conducted
before a national court of law. A sentence in the Tribunal is on the
other hand final and cannot be brought before a national court.
Council resolution 955 of 8 November 1994 stresses that the Rwanda
Tribunal shall “contribute to the national reconciliation process
and to the maintenance of peace.” The Tribunal is built on the same
model as the Yugoslavia tribunal (ICTY) with common Prosecutor and
Chamber of appeal in The Hague in the Netherlands.
Rwanda Tribunal has been described as a “three-headed monster”
consisting of the following units independent of each other: the
the Prosecutor's Office,
and the Registry.
The Tribunal has a total number of approximately 800 employees in
Tanzania and Rwanda. By the turn of the millennium the Tribunal had
collectively spent about 400 million dollars since its establishment.
The 2001 budget was 100 million dollars, while the 2002 budget is
nearly doubled to 192 million dollars.
is generally agreed that the Rwanda Tribunal had a difficult start.
Opinions about the reasons for this vary. Sources in the Tribunal give
the following explanation to the fact that the Tribunal took a long
time to establish: The placement of the actual building in Arusha was
problematic. The town lacked necessary infrastructure. Everything had
to be constructed from scratch, which was time-consuming and
claim that incompetence, laziness and corruption are more important
reasons. Many sources admit that a lot has gone wrong and claim that
big challenges still remain before the Tribunal can function
of August 2002 the Arusha Tribunal has indicted nine persons. Eight
have been convicted, of whom three on the basis of personal
confessions, while one has been acquitted. Another 17 are now on trial
in the Tribunal in cases that run parallel in the three Tribunal
chambers with sentence at the latest next year. Another 30 or so
prominent accused are in custody pending trial.
Arusha Tribunal has to a large extent managed to get arrested and
judge central architects behind the genocide. It is the first
international tribunal to indict, arrest and convict a head of
government for genocide. On 4 September 1998, the Tribunal convicted
and sentenced Jean Kambanda, former Prime Minister of Rwanda, to life
imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity. Kambanda was
one of those who pleaded guilty. In addition, ministers, top
politicians, prominent clericals, military leaders, bureaucrats, media
bosses and intellectuals are waiting for criminal proceedings and
sentence in the Tribunal’s prison in Arusha. Without the
Tribunal’s existence these would probably be free men.
Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has declared that another 111
genocide suspects will be arrested, most of them Rwandans on the run
in other countries. Among the suspects there are also supposedly
members of the RPF.
punishing some of the central persons behind the 1994 genocide, the
Arusha Tribunal has sent a strong signal that also top leaders will be
held personally responsible for serious violations of international
the limited number of judges, the Tribunal has contributed
considerably to the development of a legal practice for the
enforcement of humanitarian law. The Tribunal applied for the first
time the Genocide convention of 1948. It has also applied Protocol II
of the Geneva Convention of 1977 in its ruling, i.e. rules for
internally armed conflicts.
the Tribunal’s 2 October 1998 conviction of mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu,
the Genocide convention had been a sleeping document for 40 years.
This way the Tribunal confirmed that genocide had taken place in
Rwanda. This judicial decision was also pioneering in that it defined
systematic rape as genocide.
Tribunal has adopted about 600 different decisions in connection with
the ongoing genocide cases. This has contributed to form a foundation
for a uniform legal process in international criminal law. Gradually
the sentences become shorter and the proceedings run faster. The
judgments and legal practice of the Tribunal are also of great
importance for the future work of the new permanent International
Criminal Court (ICC). The judgements of the Tribunal have also given a
considerable contribution in describing what actually happened in
the Tribunal is an example of increasing willingness of the
international community to fight impunity for grave abuses. This may
have a deterrent effect on despotic leaders around the world. However,
since the jurisdiction is restricted to 1994, the legal process has
had a limited deterrent effect for perpetrators after 1994. This
especially concerns the ongoing conflict in Congo where the parties
from Rwanda are involved.
Rwandan army fights inside of neighbouring Congo against the former
army and the Interhamwe guerrillas who have regrouped there after
being forced to flee by RPF in July 1994. According to the peace
treaty between the presidents of Congo and Rwanda, which was signed in
South Africa in July 2002, the Rwandan army will withdraw from Congo,
while the Kinshasa government will demilitarise guerrilla groups that
threaten Rwanda. Another important development is that The Democratic
Republic of Congo has ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC, meaning
that this court will have complementary jurisdiction to legal
authorities in Congo and Rwanda. If Rwandan citizens commit crimes
within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and neither authorities in Congo
nor Rwanda prosecute them, the ICC could do it.
Tribunal was established according to Security Council resolution 955
to deliver justice and contribute to peace and the reconciliation
process in Rwanda. An important question is therefore how the work of
Tribunal influences the situation within Rwanda and development of
peace of stability in the region.
Rwanda’s dissatisfaction with the mandate and the slow legal process
in Arusha, the government has as a general principle been willing to
co-operate with the Tribunal. Most of the Rwandans that The Norwegian
Helsinki Committee interviewed underlined the importance of the
a Rwandan perspective the Tribunal is important since it may try
suspects that have escaped to other countries. Rwanda is still
practising death penalty and several countries are therefore reluctant
to extradite genocide suspects to the country.
generally, the Arusha Tribunal has so far not satisfied the
Rwandans’ need for justice, and neither the authorities nor Rwandan
organizations save their criticism about the Tribunal. There are
several very serious challenges to improve the relationship between
the Tribunal and Rwanda.
is an important recognition of the sufferings of the victims that an
independent international tribunal states that genocide has taken
place in Rwanda and prosecutes some of the main perpetrators. A
documented description of “the truth” is an important part of the
reconciliation process, but it is limited how much the Arusha Tribunal
has managed to contribute to bring forth the whole truth about several
key questions. Who committed the genocide, and how was it organised
And who shot down the president’s airplane on 6 July 1994 – an
important trigger of the genocide.
sides in the conflict have their own “truth”
and a clarification of this question may be an important contribution
to the establishment of a common truth. Even if we see that some of
these questions lie outside the Arusha Tribunal’s mandate, it should
perhaps be given priority because of the great value such a
clarification may have in Rwanda.
legal process takes place far from the people in Rwanda. Many claims
that what happens in Arusha do not concern them and they do not get
acquainted with it. The long distance also hampers logistics and makes
the work slower. A few of the problems are:
Many people have never before been
abroad or travelled by airplane
The need for protection of witnesses
Acquisition of travel documents
Rwandan government has from the beginning wanted the Tribunal in
Kigali, and has on several occasions demanded that the Tribunal be
moved there, or at least that some trials be held there. The Tribunal
has shown the will to hold some sessions in Kigali, but so far little
progress has been made.
the extent that the Tribunal has managed to document parts of the
truth on the genocide, it may seem as though it has failed to pass
this on in a sufficient way to the people. It is important that the
victims see and experience that justice is taking place, but this
seems to have had low priority at the Tribunal.
However, after massive criticism there was after some time established
an information centre in Kigali and the Tribunal supports some
information programmes around the country. The American foundation
Internews Network co-operates with the Tribunal in producing videos
showing its work. Until now, four videos have been made. One of the
reasons for producing the videos is that it is difficult to reach
people in the countryside with information.
are no daily newspapers, but two papers are published two-three times
a week, one of them “The New Times” only in English. These are
mainly distributed in the cities. In the real countryside there are no
papers at all, and illiteracy is widespread. Rwanda has no national
network of television, and television sets are found only in larger
cities. In addition, the countryside is suffering from a poor and
unstable power supply; this is of course also making it impossible to
use TV to inform the people.
radio is very important and radio broadcasts can have great leverage,
both for the good and for the bad (as was seen during the genocide,
with RTLM). The authorities use large public gatherings to inform and
discuss various issues with the people, for example the Gacaca or the
new Constitution. In addition, information videos and even drama,
theatre, art and comics have been used.
is important that organisations outside of Rwanda take part in the
information work, so that the information is perceived as neutral.
Internews provides a large contribution to meet this challenge.
Internews has so far managed to show the four videos about the work of
the Arusha Tribunal in various locations in Rwanda. The same kind of
work is also taking place to inform people about the national legal
process and the Gacaca.
general attitude in Rwanda is that the Tribunal has not delivered good
enough results. Some, even central politicians, claim the Tribunal's
work so far has been scandalous. As an example it has been pointed out
that the large spending does not stand in proportion to the results.
The expenses are enormous and the results meagre. The money could have
been spent more successfully on a faster implementation of the legal
process in Rwanda.
describe the legal process as far too slow. Public Prosecutor Gerhald
Gahima points out that in three of the nine Tribunal cases where there
is sentence in the first instance, there were confessions which made
these easier to carry out. He points to Rwanda, which with only a
fraction of the Tribunal's budget has passed 6000 genocide sentences.
Arusha Tribunal has joint Chief Prosecutor with the Yugoslavia
Tribunal, which may make progress slower. The fact that the Chief
Prosecutor spends more time in The Hague than in Arusha and Kigali
creates much frustration in Rwanda. The position as Deputy Chief
Prosecutor at the Arusha Tribunal, with office
in Kigali, has been unfilled since spring 2001. The Government of Rwanda
has several times proposed to divide the Prosecution Office in order
to have a Chief Prosecutor who can work on a daily basis in Kigali and
Arusha. Now the Chief Prosecutor must lead the work in several
locations: The Hague, Former Yugoslavia, Arusha and Kigali. Obviously,
this may be a difficult task for one person.
Arusha Tribunal has to follow international standards for convict
treatment. Prisoners in Rwanda suffer from much worse conditions. It
is a common saying in Rwanda, that the Arusha prisoners “enjoy
luxury conditions”. They have access to telephones, the Internet,
good food, Medical treatment, their own garden, etc. something most
Rwandans can only dream of. All these factors are perceived as unfair
among ordinary Rwandans.
when it comes to sentences, there is great inequality. Masterminds of
the genocide and other key perpetrators get a maximum of life sentence
in Arusha, while the subordinates arrested in Rwanda risk death
penalty. So far 23 out of 1000 death sentences have been carried out.
problem that has marked the Arusha Tribunal from the start is
incompetent employees at all levels of the Tribunal’s hierarchy. An
illustrating example is that eight lawyers given on a loan to Rwanda
from another African country were not found to have the necessary
qualifications to work in Rwanda, but several of them later got
well-paid jobs at the Tribunal.
are offered a job even though they lack the relevant background from
their own country. We have been given examples of investigators who
cannot use a computer and therefore do not themselves question
suspects and witnesses. In court there are examples of judges who do
not have experience in penal law, for example a Russian former
diplomat, or a central person in the prosecution who has his
background in business law. Furthermore, a key person in the
prosecution is not fluent in the official languages of the Tribunal.
One reason for problems in recruiting competent employees might be
that it is not attractive to work in Kigali or Arusha. There is
however a lot of criticism that the Tribunal does not have a
professional recruitment strategy. Some measures have however been
taken. In May 2001 the Chief Prosecutor fired seven senior attorneys,
citing “professional incompetence”.
of the scandals related to the Tribunal was the fact that genocide
suspects indirectly were on the Tribunal's payroll. They had been
recruited to work for the defence, which is financed by the Tribunal.
Two of these assistants were later themselves prosecuted, while two
others were fired.
sources at the Tribunal also confirm that people with ties to the old
regime are paid by investigators to find witnesses. In the view of
Rwandan authorities, the Tribunal in this way supports the old regime
that was responsible for the genocide.
of the prisoners has even established his own website
and Rwandan governments are worried that the prisoners can keep in
touch with the Interhamwe in Congo from the Arusha prison.
episode that has contributed to weaken the Rwandans’ faith in the
Tribunal was when three judges laughed out loud when a rape victim in
the so-called Reverend Case of Butare was in the witness box in
January 2002. It happened when the witness, a mass rape-victim, was
cross-examined by a defender. The witness felt humiliated and left the
Tribunal in protest. This led to a sharpened atmosphere between Rwanda
and the Tribunal. The organisation Ibuka, which represents genocide
victims, ended its co-operation with the Tribunal and recommended that
victims (witnesses) boycott the Tribunal.
judges have later denied that they laughed at the woman, but claim
that they laughed at the defenders “hopeless” questions.
Attempts to reconcile Ibuka and the Tribunal have so far failed.
Registrar of the Tribunal on 4 March 2002 proposed to the Government
of Rwanda to establish a joint commission to investigate the
allegations. But because of an inability to agree on certain
fundamental points, the Registrar decided to withdraw the proposal.
The Registrar reassured that witnesses “will not suffer any
mistreatment, and that their welfare and security will continue to be
ensured in the interest of the proper administration of justice.”
Rwanda all critical events attached to the Arusha Tribunal have a
tendency to attract much attention. The positive sides of its work
barely tend to show. One of the reasons may be the lack of an
offensive media strategy by the Tribunal, but there is also a general
lack of confidence towards the world community and international
institutions. In particular the betrayal in 1994 has left deep marks.
This adds to the scepticism towards the Tribunal based on specific
already noted, if the international legal settlement is to contribute
to reconciliation it is crucial that it is positively received in
Rwanda. This is a great challenge to the Arusha Tribunal. Many
Rwandans the Norwegian Helsinki Committee talked with felt that the
Tribunal is not for them but for the world community.
co-operation between Rwanda and the Arusha Tribunal has lately become
even more difficult. The case of the suspected perpetrators of
genocide hired by defence team financed by the Tribunal and the
“laughing episode” has led to boycott by the association for
victims of genocide, Ibuka.
month ago, the Government of
Rwanda imposed new travel regulations for witnesses to the Tribunal. The
Tribunal considers the new regulations, which provides that witnesses
must declare their identity and reason for travel to the authorities
before they can be granted travel documents, as “dangerous and
strenuous to protected witnesses”. Rwanda maintains that the new
requirements are “regular procedures required of any Rwandan
applying for travel documents”. Witnesses leaving Rwanda to testify
in Arusha were previously not required to go through the procedures.
Carla Del Ponte, in her July 23, 2002 report to the Security Council,
criticised Rwanda for several other obstructions, like ”failure to
provide government records” and “failure to co-operate in
investigations of violations of the international law by the RPF in
Rwandan government quickly denied all accusations. In a nine-page
response to the Prosecutor's charges, of 2 August 2002, the government
accused the Arusha Tribunal of undergoing “a crisis of management,
incompetence and corruption of its own making”. It wished “to
challenge the attempt by the prosecutor to point to Rwanda as the
cause of the crisis and not to the Tribunal itself.”
government presented its own version of the problems and their causes.
The allegation that the Government of Rwanda “failed to provide
government records” required by the Office of the Prosecutor, useful
to the prosecution’s case against those charged, is characterised as
regard to the co-operation on investigation of alleged violations
committed by RPF, the government states “the Tribunal should try
only genocide cases and leave any possible prosecution of RPA members
to Rwandan courts.” This is explained by the fact that Rwanda “has
a functioning judicial system” and that “the international
accountability is intended only in the cases of the absence of a state
that is able and willing to bring perpetrators of human rights
violations to justice.” According to the government “Rwanda has
already brought members of the RPF who committed abuses to justice and
sentencing, which included capital punishment.”
Tribunal has also been criticised for providing the victor's justice,
because no one from the RPF so far have been charged. The Prosecutor
has assured that they look at this type of cases and that charges
against RPF members may appear during the Tribunal's existence.
Government of Rwanda strongly dislikes this. It thinks that the
investigation of RPF is politically motivated and argues that
Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte herself has admitted that she is under
pressure from certain states to indict RPF members.
a legal point of view, there is no doubt about the obligation of
Rwandan authorities to co-operate fully with the Tribunal. The
Security Council has provided the Tribunal with a mandate to overrule
decisions by national courts, and to take up cases irrespective of
whether there have been national investigation and prosecution.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee believes that the investigation and
possible indictments of RPF members is based on reasonable suspicions
of violations of international humanitarian law, as defined in mandate
of the Arusha Tribunal.
is under a legal obligation to co-operate with the Arusha Tribunal
also when it indicts RPF members. Although RPF cannot be held
responsible for the genocide, Rwandan authorities have themselves
admitted that RPF members have committed serious crimes. The Arusha
Tribunal prosecute individuals only, not organisations, institutions
or states. The Rwandan authorities can therefore not use as an excuse
the fear that “RPF crimes are compared with the genocide.”
the view of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, it is important for
reconciliation and future peace in Rwanda that the Tribunal
investigates accusations of serious crimes by RPF members.
on national and international level of those responsible for grave
abuses in the 1994 genocide is an important condition to achieve peace
and reconciliation in Rwanda. Much depends, however, on how it is
carried out and how it is perceived.
states have chosen different approaches to handle traumatic pasts.
Usually it has been a choice between amnesty, truth commissions, legal
settlements and compensation, or combinations of these. Rwanda has
chosen legal settlements. There are no amnesties, but sentences are
reduced if you confess and give information.
legal settlement is first and foremost an answer to the need for
justice. In Rwanda, with traumatic events still present in the memory of
the people, amnesty arrangements would be destabilising. And to end the
culture of impunity and deter future atrocities, legal and quasi-legal
procedures to settle responsibilities and impose punishments are
Gacaca trials are a risky project that may strike both ways. The process
will re-expose wounds and may cause conflicts to surface. But it may
also contribute to heal wounds and settle conflicts. In contrast to the
court-based national and international legal settlement, the Gacaca will
include deep involvement by the local population. The Gacaca process
contains elements of both justice and healing, which is important in
order to achieve reconciliation.
contrast to the Arusha Tribunal, which seems distant to many Rwandans,
the Gacaca process will mobilise the people and revitalise parts of the
Rwandan cultural heritage. Gacaca is a unique judicial experiment, which
may provide a good example also for other African courtiers.
Gacaca may be criticised for the lack of sufficient legal protection of
the accused, but in the current situation it is hard to see realistic
alternatives. A precondition for the success of Gacaca is that it is
handled professionally and is perceived as just by everyone who is
Norwegian Helsinki Committee recommends the authorities of Rwanda to
invite independent international monitors to overlook the process.
International donors should on their part give financial support to the
authorities, to ensure proper technical implementation of the process.
Arusha Tribunal functions as an important supplement to the national
legal settlement. In the short term the Tribunal may have limited impact
on the reconciliation processes. However, in the long term the work of
the Tribunal has the potential of contributing to consensus on a common
historic understanding of the genocide and to ending the culture of
an international perspective the Tribunal gives effect to the principle
that serious international crimes cannot go unpunished. And the Tribunal
contributes to the development of an international legal practice for
the enforcement of the international humanitarian law.
is however very unfortunate that the Tribunal eight years after its
establishment has passed only nine judgements, even if important leaders
behind the genocide are among those indicted and sentenced. It is a
serious limitation of its functioning that it does not have a mandate to
provide compensation to victims, something Rwandan authorities wish to
implement in the national legal settlement, but cannot afford.
are serious challenges to improve the functioning of the Tribunal.
Rwandan officials seem to have lost respect for the Tribunal and in some
cases misuse the failures of the Tribunal for their own benefit.
Arusha Tribunal has a long way to go to improve professionalism and
efficiency. In particular, the recruitment policy of the Tribunal must
be improved. It is simply too much at stake to let business continue the
way it has done so far. The well functioning of the Tribunal is
important for many reasons. To improve the credibility of the
international community in the region, to promote reconciliation and
rebuilding of Rwanda and as a deterrent of future plans of mass
atrocities to solve political conflicts. The Tribunal is also important
as a step towards establishing a credible permanent international system
of fighting impunity.
including the organisation Ibuka that represents genocide victims, has
of course a right to criticise the Tribunal. Yet co-operation is in
everyone’s interest. Both the Government of Rwanda and the Tribunal
must contribute to improve relations. Authorities in Rwanda must improve
their assistance to the Tribunal and fulfil their legal obligations.
people of Rwanda were betrayed in 1994. Genocide and crimes against
humanity (that is, crimes against you and me) were allowed to happen.
The international community can never make up for that injustice. It is
important that the Rwandans are not betrayed again. Rwanda must
therefore be assisted in its efforts to carry out an extensive legal
settlement, to strengthen the reconciliation process within the country
and to improve its human rights conducts.
cannot be imposed from outside. Yet the road to reconciliation can be
less strenuous if the international community helps Rwanda with
development aid, supports funds that pay compensation to genocide
victims and help building a society respecting the dignity and rights of
According to several sources, the distribution is as
follows: Hutu 84%, Tutsi 12%, Twa 3%, but these figures vary. Today,
all citizens are registered as Rwandans, and there are no official
statistics about ethnicity.
The 18 clans are: Abasinga; Abasindi; Abazigaba; Abagesera; Ababanda;
Abanyiginya; Abega; Abacyaba; Abungura; Abashambo; Abatsobe; Abakono;
Abaha; Abashingo; Abanyakarama; Abasita; Abongera; and Abenengwe
Interview with “Peace”,
Kigali, 2. February 2002.
The largest massacres and expulsions took place in 1963, 1967 and
1973. Fergal Keane's Season of
Blood and Alain Destexhe's Rwanda
and Genocide in the Twentieth Century.
RPF had its military branch, called the Rwandan
Patriotic Army (RPA). For the sake of simplicity, we do not
separate the RPA from the RPF.
Des Forges, Alise (1999): Leave none to tell the story,
Washington: Human Rights Watch.
The Arusha Accords can be downloaded at http://www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/cds/agreements/africa.html
“The final solution” was proposed by some intellectuals, among
them Ferdinand Nahimana, who is now charged at the Arusha Tribunal.
Interhamwe means ”those who stand together in fight”.
Some interpret this in the actual situation as “together to
kill”. Interhamwe was the most infamous killing machine during the
genocide, but also other militia groups operated in 1994.
Article 19 (1996): “Broadcasting Genocide - Censorship, Propaganda
& State-Sponsored Violence in Rwanda 1990 – 1994.”
Article 19, report, XIX, International Centre against
Kangura literally means “the voice which seeks to awaken and
defend the ‘majority people’” (Hutu)
Interview with Valérie Bémériki, Kigali Central Prison, 8
Interview with John Gunnar Rae, representative of The Norwegian
Church Aid in Rwanda, 4 February 2002.
Interview with Eustache Amani Karangua, Kigali 8 February 2002.
Catholic World News and BBC 11 June, 2001.
The book was first published in 1995, but was later published in a
new edition with more than 700 pages: Rwanda:
Death, Despair and Defiance.
Uvin, Peter (2001): Reading the Rwandan Genocide,
International Studies Review, Vol, 3, Issue 3, s. 75-99.
Interview with Philibert Kagabo. Kigali 7 February 2002.
The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide. Article I, states that “genocide, whether committed in
time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law
which they undertake to prevent and to punish”.
UNAMIR had a far more limited mandate than the UN force in Somalia.
It could not us force, except in self-defence, but even for that
purpose it was poorly equipped. General Romeo Dallaire of Canada,
who led UNAMIR, informed and warned the UN in New York about what
was happening and would happen, but met with only limited
understanding. His requests for a stronger mandate and more
resources were not met.
In addition to Carlsson, the team consisted of former Korean prime
minister Han Sung-Joo and General Rufus M. Kupolati of Nigeria.
Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United
Nations During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, New York, 15
Belgium withdrew its forces after ten Belgian soldiers were killed
while trying to protect the Rwandan prime minister.
Samantha Power: Bystanders to Genocide, The Atlantic Montly.
Philip Gourevitch: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be
Killed With Our Families, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1998.
Interview with Patrick Mazihmaka, personal advisor of the President
Paul Kagame, Kigali 4. February 2002.
Interview with Charles Murigande, Kigali, 7 February 2002.
Surprisingly, a suspected perpetrator of genocide won the lyrics
competition and had to be brought from prison to receive the prize.
A military officer wrote the melody.
The ”Heros Day” of Rwanda was established in 1995. The heroes’
prizes are divided into three categories. On the 7th award ceremony,
on 1 February 2002, prizes were awarded to the unknown soldiers who
lost their lives on the battlefield, an officer, a former king who
fought against colonial rule, and named massacred Rwandans. The New
Times, Kigali 4 February 2002.
Interview with Tito Rutaremara, leader of The Constitutional
Commission, Kigali 7 February 2002.
Interview with Emile Rwamasirabo, Rector of The National University
of Butare, Butare 6 February 2002.
Our sources cannot state numbers but think many people disappeared
in the prisons. Representatives of the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights that wished to be anonymous said that as recently as
1998 they discovered prisons in which human rights were completely
neglected. Rwandan authorities do not deny that human rights
violations took place in prisons, but claim that those were not
widespread and systematic violations, as some human rights
organisations have reported.
Report on a project to rebuild the judicial system in Rwanda,
initiated by Norwegian People’s Aid, Oslo, June 1998.
Those acquitted are not offered compensation, because the Rwandan
state lacks the necessary funds.
Interview with The Rwandan Public Prosecutor, Gerald Gahima, Kigali,
8 February 2002.
Public Prosecutor Gerald Gahima says that far from all those
sentenced to death will be executed, although capital punishment
will be enforced for those sentenced of very serious crimes.
Interview with Tito Rutaremara, leader of the Constitutional
Commission, Kigali 7 February 2002.
The Government assigned a group of researchers with the task of
assessing various ways to reconcile the people. The work to develop
the Gacaca system started in 1995 with judicial and practical
planning of the legal processes. The law was put before the interim
national assembly (L’Asseblée Nationale de Transition) on 12
Interview with Wanda Hall from Hirondelle news agancy, Kigali, 10
Organic Law No. 08/96 of August 30, 1996 on the organization of
Prosecutions for Offences constituting the Crime of Genocide or
Crimes against Humanity committed since October 1, 1990.
According to the annual report of Human Rights Watch (2001-2002),
15.000 (April 2002) have confessed.
Interview with Philibert Kagabo, Kigali, 7 February 2002.
Amnesty International report: Rwanda: The troubled course of justice,
of Rwanda: Reply to Amnesty International’s report:
The troubled Course of Justice”.
Interview with John Gunnar Rae, representative of The Norwegian
Church Aid in Rwanda, 4 February 2002.
Interview with Eustache Amani Karungua, Kigali 8 February 2002.
Interview with The Rwandan Public Prosecutor Gerald Gahima, Kigali,
8 February 2002.
They are working on a project supported by John Templeton Foundation
in co-operation with the local organisation MUSECCORE. The works
spans healing processes, forgiveness and reconciliation. The
conclusions were also expressed at a conference in August 2001 on
psychosocial aspects of reconciliation. Several prominent people
from Rwanda attended the conference.
Laurie Anne Pearlman and Ervin Staub: “The Gacaca Process as an
Avenue toward Healing and Reconciliation”, 2001.
Mazihmaka, Gahima, Murigande and several others whom we interviewed
Hindorelle Press Agency: www.hindorelle.org
ACCORD: African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes.
Interview with Paul Nantulya,
Drammen, Norway, December 2001. He also wrote an essay about Gacaca:
“The Gacaca-system”. Conflict Trends. No 4/2001,
Durban, South Africa.
The prisoners in Category 1, who are facing the most serious
charges, have no advantage of the Gacaca, except that the legal
settlement will be faster. In this group we met inmates who
criticised the Gacaca but who still recognised the advantages
compared to if everyone had to go through an ordinary legal process.
Victor K. Mugarura: Restorative Justice through Gacaca,
Kigali: The New Times, 11. October 2001.
UN Doc. S/RES/935(1994).
UN Doc. E/CN.4.1994/7/Add.1
reviewed by the UN Commission for Human Rights in April 2002.
Security Council Resolution 997, 22 January 1995 – the decision to
locate the Tribunal in neighbouring Tanzania.
The Tribunal Chambers: There are currently nine judges in three
chambers, headed by a president and a vice- president. In addition
there are translators and a large number of other employees. The UN
General Assembly elects the judges.
The Prosecutors Office has an investigation unit in Kigali that
gathers evidence against the suspects. In Arusha the office has the
powers to prosecute suspects, with prosecutors that lead the offence
in court, and an evidence unit. The Chief Prosecutor is common for
the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals.
The Registrar: As Assistant Secretary General, the Registrar reports
directly to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. An administrative unit
heads the bureaucratic apparatus, but the Registrar also has five
units in a judicial and legal service section, of which two assist
and protect witnesses of the prosecution and the defence.
For more information about the Arusha Tribunal’s budgets, see the
following article from 5 April 2002, in Internews: Expensive
Justice: Cost of Running the Rwanda Tribunal. http://allafrica.com/publishers.html?passed_name=Internews&passed_location=Arusha
In the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu (Decision of 2 September 1998, Case
No. ICTR-96-4-T) the sentence concluded that sexual violence
constitutes genocide insofar as it is committed “with the specific
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a particular group, targeted
as such”. ICTR further asserts, “sexual violence was a step in
the process of destruction of the Tutsi group – destruction of the
spirit, of the will to live, and of life itself”.
Prosecutor Gerald Gahima says to The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
that Rwanda may give guarantees that the country is not going to use
the death penalty in specific cases. This way, extraditions may be
obtained in the future, after the Arusha Tribunal is closed down.
International Crisis Group has criticised the Tribunal’s lack of
ability to disclose the truth. In its report “The Rwanda Tribunal:
Justice Delayed” from June 2001, ICG states: “Seven years on it
has still not been able to shed light on the design, mechanism,
chronology, organisation and financing of the genocide, nor has it
answered the key question: who committed the genocide?”
The genocide regime claimed that RPF shot down the plane, and used
that for all it was worth. RPF claim that the architects of genocide
themselves ordered the shooting down of the plane.
As an illustration, the media was originally not offered space at
the Tribunal. The organisation Hirondelle granted 35.000 US dollars
to the Tribunal for a press centre in 1995, but only after strong
pressure were premises set up in 1997. All equipment was later
obtained through other sources of funding. Hirondelle never made an
inquiry into what happened to the original grant.
to Florence Hartmann, Spokesperson for Arusha tribunal, the position
will be filled by September 2002.
Internews, ARUSHA 31 July 2002.
This was confirmed by representatives of the Tribunal, but it was
claimed that the inmate received external assistance to update the
This stirred great emotions in Rwanda, and most of our interviewees,
even high in the Rwandan administration, stressed this. The
explanations by the judges were not accepted.
Statement, Arusha, 17 April 2002 “The Registrar decides to
withdraw his proposal to establish Joint Commission to investigate
allegations of mistreatment of witnesses from Rwanda.”
“Reply of the Government of Rwanda to the report of the Prosecutor
of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to the Security
Council”. New York, 26 July 2002. www.rwanda1.com/