Rwanda Closes Genocide Courts

Posted June 18th, 2012 at 6:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Rwanda has officially closed its community courts after 10 years of trying those accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide.

President Paul Kagame told lawmakers Monday that the courts, known as gacacas, exceeded people's expectations.

“The Gacaca courts were an important end in itself for justice and reconciliation. In fact they served a purpose far greater than reconciliation, and peace comes in the sense of purpose it brings Rwanda and has been able to make progress that is very evident.''

The courts were originally formed to resolve minor disputes among villagers but were reinvented in 1994 to reduce the backlog of genocide cases that threatened to overwhelm the country's judicial system. They were also meant to promote national reconciliation.

However, the courts have been criticized by some human rights groups, because defendants often did not have lawyers and judges largely had no legal experience.

According to estimates, more than 1.8 million cases were handled by the gacaca courts. About 65 percent of those tried by the courts were convicted.

The alleged ringleaders of the genocide were tried by the United Nation's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which was set up in neighboring Tanzania.

During Rwanda's 1994 genocide, ethnic Hutu militants killed an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates.