Today, the Rwandan government hosted an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and to discuss the need for justice and reconciliation as important pillars in rebuilding Rwandan society. Ambassador of Rwanda, H.E. Nduhungirehe began the discussion by pointing out the main challenge of genocide reconciliation: how to provide redress for victims, while at the same time holding perpetrators accountable and restoring harmony among Rwandans. One way this was achieved was through the establishment of the Gacaca Courts across Rwandan towns and villages.
The Gacaca courts are a traditional community-run court system established in order to find out the truth about what happened during the genocide, and hold those responsible accountable. Over a 7-year period after the genocide, the courts successfully tried 1.3 million suspects, with convictions and sentences decided by community leaders with a focus on reconciliation. Next, Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, the Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs, and Mr. Jallow, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), gave statements on the trials and convictions at the ICTR. Besides holding individuals accountable for their crimes, the ICTR also left a legacy of jurisprudence for international criminal law, which included finding individuals guilty of rape as a crime of genocide, and finding individuals guilty of incitement to commit genocide. The ICTR indicted 93 persons, 63 were convicted.
Mr. Minah, the permanent representative of Sierra Leone, then gave a statement about his country’s experience with justice and reconciliation after 11 years of civil strife. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone, survivors were able to publicly tell their stories, and perpetrators had the chance to admit their crimes and ask for forgiveness. Mr. Minah ended his statement by pointing out that true reconciliation is achieved through restorative, not retributive justice. Ending the discussion, Ms. Murekatete, a genocide survivor, shed light on the situation from her unique perspective. She pointed out that while the Gacaca Courts and ICTR had many successes, there were also many shortcomings. She suggested increased protection and trauma counseling services for those who testified at the Gacaca Courts, and for the proceedings of the ICTR to be made more transparent for genocide survivors.
Meeting Title: Symposium on the Contribution of Post-Genocide Justice to Reconciliation in Rwanda
Speakers: Mr. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Deputy Permanent Representative of Rwanda; Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs; Mr. Hassan Boubacar Jallow, Prosecutor for ICTR; Mr. Vandi Chidi Minah, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone; Ms. Jacqueline Murekatete, Rwandan Genocide Survivor
Location: United Nations HQ, ECOSOC Chamber
Date: 3 June 2014
Written By WIT representative: Marli Kasdan
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark