Kigali, 5 December 2007 (FH) - The organic law on the semi-traditional gacaca courts could be the subject of an amendment which would widen the material jurisdiction of these courts, with an aim of speeding the dispute over the 1994 genocide.   

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The gacacas, which will have finished the essence of their work by the end of the year, do not have jurisdiction, for the moment, over the first category of genocide defendants; which includes the organizers and the supervisors of the genocide, and the authors of rapes during the genocide. They must be tried before conventional courts.

 "We are currently discussing with all the parties a proposal aiming at re-examining the first category so that certain cases can be tried by the gacacas", explained to the Hirondelle agency the Rwandan Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama. "It will require an amendment of the law", continued the minister, explaining that the objective is "to see how to finish the genocide trials". "For the moment, they are only ideas, we are discussing this subject. Nothing has been decided", specified Karugarama.

Until now, some 77 269 accused have been placed in the first category of genocide accused. Some of them are already in prison, others are still free in Rwanda or abroad.

Last month, the council of ministers set up a team charged with tracking genocide fugitives that might be abroad.

Charged with trying the majority of the alleged authors of the genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda from 1 October 1990 to 31 December 1994, the gacacas are presided, not by professional magistrates, but by people chosen from their community.

 Their temporal jurisdiction is, thus, broader than that of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which only has jurisdiction for 1994. Like the ICTR, the gacacas can sentence up to life in prison.



© Hirondelle News Agency