A new book by a French researcher has lauded the Gacaca justice system, saying it was ‘a successful path to justice’ and a rich resource for research.
Titled “Judging Genocide on the Hills: A Study of Gacaca Trials 2006 and 2012”, Dr. Hélène Dumas’ book was defended at the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris. It was released on Monday.
In an interview with The New Times, Dumas said her fieldwork began immediately after the system was launched in 2006 until the official closure last year.
“I mainly focused on the trials themselves, and then conducted interviews mainly in the former commune of Shyorongi (currently in Rulindo District). I chose to work deeply on a limited sample,” Dumas said.
“I observed the trials, trying to grasp how victims and suspects were speaking about their experience during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. I had no theory about Gacaca because this judicial process is very original,” she said.
Responding to critics
“I did not want to develop an expert point of view about it but I rather preferred to understand the narratives of the people in order to draw from these narratives an historical material.”
She also responded to critics of Gacaca, many of whom claim that the system lacked legal structures to deliver justice.
“I am not a lawyer but an historian and I think Gacaca courts were born of the seminal experience of the Genocide against the Tutsi. It’s difficult to evaluate Gacaca from the international rule of law perspective as it is an unprecedented judicial process,” she said.
She said that her aim was not to “evaluate” the impact of Gacaca on peace-building and reconciliation as many other researchers did.
“My question was: “how can we learn about the history of the Genocide through the narratives deployed into Gacaca sessions?”
The research was received positively by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), with officials there acknowledging the researcher’s desire to highlight the truth about Rwanda’s efforts in providing justice to the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in which over a million people died.
“Research is a very important tool for the future and keeps the truth alive. Dr. Helene Dumas carried out a careful study of how Gacaca delivered remarkable justice despite limited resources and shows how home-grown initiatives have propelled Rwanda forward,” Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the Executive Secretary of CNLG said on Monday.
The Gacaca system was established in 2002 with the view of unearthing the truth behind the Genocide, delivering justice in the shortest time possible and forstering reconcilaition.
Gacaca closed last year after handling almost two million cases on a budget of Rwf29 billion.