Kigali, March 31, 2010 – The Hirondelle News Agency reports that the gacaca courts, which were created in 2001 as an attempt to try the bulk of Rwanda’s genocide suspects, had not wound up their proceedings by the end of March. This was the courts’ second failed deadline as trials were expected to have concluded in February.
According to Denis Bikesha, the director of training, mobilisation and sensitisation of the National Service of Gacaca Jurisdictions (NSGJ), proceedings will continue in April. He gave no new deadline for the end of all trials.
Around 500 cases are believed to be still pending before gacaca courts, which began their actual trials only five years ago. Roughly one million people have so far been judged.
The gacaca courts, adapted from a form of Rwandan traditional justice, are tasked with trying suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide which left some 800,000 people dead, according to the U.N. These village courts, whose judges are elected from the community, can hand down sentences of up to life imprisonment, which is now the maximum penalty in Rwanda.
Many genocide survivors regret that “gacaca justice” has not helped to resolve outstanding problems, notably the restoration to their rightful owners of assets which were taken away by force in 1994, or their correct appraisal in view of full compensation.