The Courts of Genocide: Politics and the Rule of Law in Rwanda and Arusha

The Courts of Genocide: Politics and the Rule of Law in Rwanda and Arusha

The Courts of Genocide: Politics and the Rule of Law in Rwanda and Arusha

The Courts of Genocide: Politics and the Rule of Law in Rwanda and Arusha


The Courts of Genocidefocuses on the judicial response to the genocide in Rwanda in order to address the search for justice following mass atrocities. The central concern of the book is how the politics of justice can get in the way of its administration. Considering both the ICTR (International Criminal tribunal for Rwanda), and all of the politics surrounding its work, and the Rwandan approach (the Gacaca courts and the national judiciary) and the politics that surround it, The Courts of Genocideaddresses the relationship between these three 'courts' which, whilst oriented by similar concerns, stand in stark opposition to each other. In this respect, the book addresses a series of questions, including: What aspects of the Rwandan genocide itself played a role in directing the judicial response that has been adopted? On what basis did the government of Rwanda decide to address the genocide in a legalistic manner? Around what goals has each judicial response been organized? What are the specific procedures and processes of this response? And, finally, what challenges does its multifaceted character create for those involved in its operation, well as for Rwandan society? Addressing conceptual issues of restorative and retributive justice, liberal legalism and cosmopolitan law, The Courts of Genocide constitutes a substantially grounded reflection upon the problem of 'doing justice' after genocide.


If you must remember, remember this …
The Nazis did not kill six million Jews …
Nor the Interahamwe kill a million Tutsis,
They killed one and then another, and then another …
Genocide is not a single act of murder,
It is millions of acts of murder.

(Smith 2004)

Erected at one end of the Kanombe District Office parking lot, the Gacaca (pronounced ga-cha-cha) court, literally translated as justice on the grass in Kinyarwanda, is a collection of crudely constructed benches under the shade of a semi-permanent tarp. a truck arrives in the compound with two men, dressed in neatly pressed pink prisoners’ uniforms, sitting on the sides of the open box. the prisoners climb out of the back of the truck while the driver, who is also their armed police escort, gets out of the front. the crowd of approximately 100 people, who have been slowly gathering over the past hour, begin to find seats within the space delineated by the tarp. Once a week, members of the community descend upon this court to participate in this resurrected and modernized form of traditional Rwandan dispute-resolution mechanism.

This day, two men who have previously pled guilty to their crimes under the provisions outlined in the Gacaca Organic Law No 40 (2001) (later revised as Organic Law No 16; Government of Rwanda 2004a), will have their cases heard before the Inyangamugayo (literally translated as persons of integrity) who are community-elected judges in a process open to the entire community. the two accused prisoners take a seat in the front row, under the tarp, sitting beside and amongst other members of the community. Prior to the arrival of the judges, a brief exchange of greetings occurs between the accused and some members of the community. the formal arrival of the eight judges, each adorned with a sash in the blue and yellow colours of the Rwandan flag and inscribed with the word Inyangamugayo, take their seats behind a wooden table at the front of the court. in addition to the police escort, a red-uniformed individual representing the local defence force stands . . .

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