The National Service for Gacaca Jurisdictions has rebutted recent accusations by Ibuka – the Genocide Survivors’ umbrella organisation –that Gacaca courts were not rendering due justice during trials of the 1994 Genocide suspects.
During an extraordinary general assembly held recently, Ibuka attacked Gacaca service claiming that it’s marred by among other problems, corruption, leniency and speedy trials.
But the Executive Secretary of Gacaca courts at the national level, Domitille Mukantaganzwa, who addressed a press conference yesterday said: “We agree that there are some problems but the way Ibuka presented them was very much exaggerated.
“The service is just like any other institution and the mistakes that take place are similar to what happens elsewhere, but we always rectify them,” she told journalists from her office in Kacyiru.
Ibuka particularly criticized the amendment of Gacaca law which provided parole on most of the Gacaca convicts, especially those in category two of Genocide perpetrators.
The Ibuka report alleges: “the persistent amendments of the Gacaca law have relaxed the punishments to perpetrators which devalue the Genocide crime.”
In response, Mukantaganzwa said that the prime objective of justice delivery is not imprisoning people. “Parole is even provided for in the normal judicial system and the major reason we adopted it in Gacaca was because most people who were convicted had never been in prison; they were living within their societies and we felt they could pose no threat.
That is why we put them on parole, but it does not imply that they are free,” she said.
She said that if they had resorted to imprisoning all perpetrators, they would have jailed at least 358,000 people.
“That would mean that we would require more prison facilities, and besides, these people would live on taxpayers’ money. We found it appropriate to have release them so that they continue to contribute to the development of the country,” she said.
Ibuka also said during its recent congress that threat against genocide victims who are also witnesses during Gacaca sessions are not properly protected.
“It was observed that survivors are still subjects to intimidation, and imprisonment…protection of Genocide suspects, especially the elite, rich people and high ranking government officials and also serious interference of Gacaca senior officials in trials,” a statement issued by indicated.
However, Mukantaganzwa said that the few cases where some survivors have been imprisoned, it was because they were disrupting the procedures of Gacaca activities while others were giving false testimony.
“If there are any other survivors that are in prison for other reasons, we are not aware and they should come and tell us,” she added.
She said that survivors should not operate extrajudicial. “They are also bound by the law.”
The Gacaca courts, which were put in place to try Genocide-related crimes that took place in Rwanda between October 1990 and December 1994, have so far completed over one million cases.