New-York, May 31, 2011 (FH) - The New-York based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) released on Tuesday a 144-page report assessing Gacaca courts achievements and outlining serious shortcomings in their work.

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Since their creation in 2005, Gacaca courts have tried around 1.2 million cases linked to the 1994 genocide.

In the document entitled "Justice compromised: The legacy of Rwanda's community-based gacaca courts", HRW acknowledges that "the Rwandan government faced enormous challenges in creating a system that could rapidly process tens of thousands of cases in a way that would broadly accepted by the population".

After reviewing more than 350 cases and interviewing hundreds of participants from all sides, HRW found important fair trial violations including "possible miscarriage of justice due to using largely untrained judges; trumped-up charges, some based on the Rwandan government's wish to silence critics; misuse of gacaca to settle personal scores: judges or officials' intimidation of defense witnesses; and corruption by judges and parties to cases".

Potential witnesses sometimes failed to speak out in defense of suspects "because they feared prosecution for perjury, complicity in genocide, or "genocide ideology", adds HRW.

At last, HRW deplores the government's  decision to exclude crimes committed by soldiers of the RPF.

Rwandan Ministry of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama immediately issued a press release on the government website to criticize HRW's report.

"Human Rights Watch has chosen to base its verdict of Gacaca by citing a handful of cases which went wrong and then implying that the whole 1.2 million can be assessed in the same light. This is unwarranted and makes a mockery of the efforts of all Rwandans who are working together to promote justice and reconciliation", states Tharcisse Karugarama .


© Hirondelle News Agency