04.01.08 - GENOCIDE/GACACA - GACACA TRIALS COULD ALSO TRY FIRST CATEGORY DEFENDANTS

Kigali, 4 January 2008 (FH) - The Executive Secretary of the National Service of Gacaca Courts (SNJG), Mrs Domitille Mukantanganzwa, has suggested that the Gacaca Courts should also try crimes of genocide committed by those classified in the first category.
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"In comparison with the extent of the crimes committed, the number of criminals and victims, the gacaca courts will be the best suited for this purpose", she stated during a debate organized on 23 December in Kigali.

According to her, nearly 8000 cases are classified in the first category. "The question of giving them either to the prosecutor or to the gacaca courts is still in discussion", she hinted.

According to the organic law on the gacacas, those classified in the first category are people having had a primary role during the genocide such as planners or officials of political, security and religious institutions.

The authors of rapes and sexual violence are also included. The second category includes the executants, while the third category refers to people who damaged or plundered properties and goods during the 1994 genocide.

During its extraordinary congress on 7 December, IBUKA, the association of genocide survivors, had accused the gacaca judges, called "inyangamugayo" , to be corrupt and ineffective, especially for second category trials.

Mukantaganzwa, however, has refuted these criticisms and said that since the beginning of the gacacas, nearly 56 000 ineffective or corupt judges had been removed from their functions.

According to her, approximately 97% of the cases were tried in the second category and 85% of the cases in the third category.

The year 2008 will be devoted, she announced, to try the few cases remaining from last year .

"More than that, we will gather and archive the cases of all the gacaca courts for history and the memory of the 1994 Tutsi genocide ", she added.

She also regretted the disappearance of certain cases and some people who " protected certain authors of the genocide, either by family tie or corruption".

The gacaca courts were instituted by the organic law of 2001.

The year 2002 was primarily devoted to the training of the judges, while 2003 was marked by an effective beginning and the introduction of the traditional courts.

The courts, whose expiry had been scheduled for 31 December 2007, tried nearly 1, 055, 000 people.

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