Kigali, 6 September 2007 (FH) - Rwandan lawyers could be authorized to intervene before the semi-traditional Gacaca courts, explained to the Hirondelle agency the chairman of the Bar, Gatera Gashabana.

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"We are in talks with the authority of the National Service of Gacaca Courts (SNJG). The question involves lawyers in the proceedings of Gacaca trials. But without gowns!", explained Gatera At the time of the conference on the rights of defence and organized legal assistance last week in Kigali, the total absence of the rights of defence in Gacaca trials, where the parties only have access to the statements of their witnesses, was denounced. According to Gatera, article 18 of the constitution guarantees the rights of defence as an absolute right and no provision in the institutional act on Gacacas prohibits it. "What is not prohibited is allowed", he said quoting a legal principle. Contacted by the Agency, Gratien Dusingizimana, chief of the legal department within the SNJG, is confident that the absence of lawyers in Gacaca trials is purely consensual. One cannot find lawyers for each of the thousands of trials related to the genocide. Also everyone cannot afford a lawyer, according to him. "A lawyer in his gown, in our rural areas, is unsafe! It is instability between the parties!", he said. In Gacaca trials, the right to speak is granted to all those who want it. A lawyer, without his dress of pageantry, can ask for the right, as every citizen, and say what he has to say for the defendant or the victim, or just a consideration of a general nature. He is not less a lawyer! And that being done, perhaps without people there realizing it!, he specified. The judges of the Gacaca courts are not professional magistrates, but ordinary citizens elected on the basis of their integrity within their community. They have an ad hoc legal formation. On 31 May, these courts had judged 108 732 persons on more than 800 000 listed cases. Officially, their work must be completed by 31 December.


© Hirondelle News Agency