Arusha, May 20, 2011(FH) -The Gacaca Courts tasked with trying perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide will be officially closed in December 2011, the Minister for Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, has said.

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"A final report will be completed by December and this chapter of Gacaca will be officially declared closed," the minister said. The statement by the minister comes after several postponement of closure of the courts adopted from a form of Rwandan traditional justice, whose judges are elected from the community.

Earlier, the official closure of courts had been set for September, 2010, but the process was postponed sine die to allow examination of numerous requests made by different institutions after the end of trials.

The minister pointed out also that Gacaca has brought together relatives of genocide suspects to sit side by side with genocide survivors and judge fairly those who committed those crimes.

"Through Gacaca we have been able to judge and resolve up to 1.4 million dossiers, a great achievement that would have been impossible otherwise. There have been prison sentences ranging from five to ten years, life sentences that make up five to eight percent of the verdicts and acquittals that make up 20 to 30 percent, he said.

Yet another powerful aspect to Gacaca, according to the minister, has been its community work ruling as an alternative to prison. According to him, such sentence often allows people to live in their homes and carry out their sentences about twice a week.

"What is truly amassing is that now you can go to towns where these people are carrying out their sentence and find genocide survivors living peaceful side by side with genocide perpetrators or their relatives.

"All in all we are happy that we have a unique system that caters to our people needs, it may not be perfect for other nations but it serves us very well," said Minister Karugarama.


© Hirondelle News Agency