Montreal, 22 October 2007 (FH) - Rwandan survivors stated during the Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide, that was recently held in Montreal, that the witnesses and defendants of the gacacas were not safe.

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"Witnesses are threatened, they have stones thrown at them. Their safety, and that of the defendants, is really not assured ", declared one of the 15 Rwandans who, live from the Memorial Centre of Kigali, discussed on Saturday 13 October with the lecturers at this meeting in Montreal.

If the topic of the discussion was originally "Facing History and Ourselves: Imagining a World without Genocide ", the gacacas quickly became the subject of debate, these courts inspired by traditional Rwandan justice that Kigali reactivated in 2001 in order to accelerate the trials of 120 000 individuals awaiting in the prisons of the country.

Thus, confronted with an audience curious to know if this unprecedented form of justice was a success, the Rwandans provided mixed opinions: "It is a way of reconciling people without using too much time", thought a survivor, "a new cause of trauma", underlined another, who added that "survivors are still being kill at the present moment, because of their participation" in the gacacas.

Indeed, many survivors and witnesses of the genocide were victims of aggressions during the last few months, the last event being the assassination of the president of a gacaca court, just a week ago.

For the jurists and NGO representatives gathered in Montreal, the gacacas constitute a real source of questions. "We are stuck between the ICTR and the gacacas ", stated at the end of the videoconference, René Provost, a professor at McGill University.

"On one side, there is the ICTR which is accused of being too distant from Rwanda, of having treated victims in an indignant manner, of being too selective, and, in a general, of being too distant from Rwandan reality. And, on another side, there are the gacacas, which are criticized of being models badly adapted for crimes of the magnitude of a genocide and whose results are often more injustice for the defendants, but also sometimes for the witnesses ", said to the Hirondelle Agency Mr. Provost, who directs the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.

Mr. Provost, who chaired this videoconference, explained, moreover, that by organizing a Montreal-Kigali discussion, it was possible to escape from the North-American shaping that Rwandan refugees in Canada have undergone. "Expatriates have views which have been transformed by the fact of being immersed in a North-American society. Also, we were wary of ourselves by not recognizing this influence in what people have told us: hence the idea of speaking directly to people in Kigali ", explained the Canadian professor.

For this videoconference, a second room had to be arranged to handle the overflow of interested spectators. McGill University is at the origin of this conference which, in three days, gathered more than 500 academics, representatives of NGOs, leaders of international organizations, jurists and journalists.

© Hirondelle News Agency