2 min 5Approximate reading time

Kigali, January 3rd 2007 (FH) – In spite of many challenges, notably in terms of insuring the security of both defendants and survivors, the year 2006 has marked a decisive step for the semi-traditional Rwandan gacaca courts in charge of judging the majority of the suspects of the 1994 genocide. Approximately 40,000 accused have been tried since gacaca courts, initially limited to 106 tribunals, were extended to the whole country in mid-July 2006. In parallel to these judgments, the gathering of information pertaining to the perpetration of the genocide has been almost entirely completed in every village in Rwanda, the National Service of Gacaca Courts (NSGC) has reported. This fundamental step on which all the process depends consists in establishing a list of victims and a list of genocide suspects and to sort the latter into categories depending on the seriousness of the crimes. Thereby, according to the NSGC, there were 766,489 suspects persons at the end of October, 72,539 of them within the first category, 397,103 in the second one and 296,847 in the third one. The first category comprises those suspected of the most serious crimes: genocide planners, reputed killers and rapists. Gacaca tribunals, which can issue a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, are not competent to judge the accused listed in this category. They will continue being prosecuted before conventional tribunals. Encouraged by its five-month experience, the Rwandan government wishes that, by providing all the necessary resources, all trials taking place before gacaca courts can be over by the end of 2007. In the opinion of the NDGC, it will require to increase the number of chambers in each sector by calling in the judges of gacaca cell jurisdictions whose task will be over. Cell jurisdictions are in charge of collecting information and trying the authors of offenses against properties. They do not pronounce prison sentences. There are currently 9,013 gacaca courts of the cell, 1,545 gacaca courts of the sector and as many appeal courts at the sector level. Difficulties remain. The most worrying being the lack of protection that genocide survivors, witnesses and honest judges (inyangamugayo) serving in the Gacaca courts, sometimes suffer from. According to the latest report of the principal organization for human rights, the Rwandan League for the Promotion and the Defense of Human Rights (LIPRODHOR), « real or potential (witnesses) are victims of diverse forms of threats and intimidation. In the worst cases, some have been murdered ». According to the Ministry of the Interior, conventional Rwandan courts are dealing with the cases of hundreds of persons accused of participation in the assassination of witnesses, survivors and even judges. Ministers, senators, representatives, governors of provinces and mayors have all worked on the issue in mid-December during their annual two-day meeting presided by the Rwandan President Paul Kagame. In the course of their heated debate – some in the Parliament even shed tears – the basic administrative authorities have been harshly criticized. Blamed for their lack of vigilance and their complicity with those who put the security of survivors, judges and witnesses at risk, they were urged to make amends immediately lest they should face exemplary sanctions. In his address to the nation at midnight on December 31st, President Kagame once more warned the criminals. « We cannot allow them to carry out their criminal plan », the head of state has declared. ER/PB/MG © Hirondelle News Agency