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HRW: Rwanda Genocide Courts Leave 'Mixed Legacy'

Published on Tuesday 31st May 2011

Human Rights Watch has issued a report saying Rwanda's community-based genocide courts will have a mixed legacy, but the government says the report distorts the truth.HRW's Africa director Daniel Bekele says the courts, known as Gacaca, helped Rwandans better understand what happened in the 1994 genocide.  However, he added that in many cases, "flawed trials have led to miscarriages of justice."In a report issued Tuesday, the rights group called for specialized units in the national court system to review alleged injustices.Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama defended the genocide courts, saying they brought together genocide victims and suspects' relatives to fairly judge the accused. Karugarama pointed out that the genocide courts cleared more than one million cases that had been overwhelming the conventional court system.He also said Rwanda had little choice but to use Gacaca courts, saying the country was shattered after the genocide and had very few people with legal training.Human Rights Watch says it based its report on 2,000 days of trial observations, 350 case reviews and interviews with hundreds of participants from all sides.In 1994, extremist Hutus killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during a three-month killing spree. Those held most responsible for the killings are being tried at the U.N.-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Tanzania. The Gacaca courts were set up to try lower-level suspects, and to help ease severe overcrowding in Rwanda's prisons.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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