Five years after the official closure of Gacaca courts, the Government is working to see that compensation cases are completed by the end of the year, the Minister of State for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana, has said.
In a recent meeting that brought together officials from the Ministry of Justice, Rwanda Correctional Services (RSC) and members of the senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs on an update about the status of pending Gacaca court cases, Minister Uwizeyimana said the Government will determine the way forward next week.
“Beginning July, we will conduct the final assessment of the Gacaca cases to find out where the real problems are. We expect to be done with the exercise at the end of this year and we intend to close this chapter by the end of the year and perhaps remain with tracking down Genocide fugitives,” he said.
Minister Uwizeyimana said measures had been put in place to enforce the execution of some of the cases.
“To encourage more people to execute these court cases peacefully, we are now saying that court fees incurred in trying to enforce a court order should be paid by the one who lost,” he explained.
Of all the 1.9 million cases that were tried by Gacaca, 1.3 million concerned destroyed property, according to April 2015 government report.
Up to 1.2 million people were found guilty and ordered to pay reparations.
At the time, 5,298 of those who lost could not afford to pay while 1,277 did not have complete documentation.
However, according to Uwizeyimana, the numbers have changed over the years due to various reasons.
“We have people who have adamantly refused to pay, then those who are too poor to afford paying, those whose files are not complete and those who run away. For instance, when it comes to reparations, 64,000 cases are yet to be executed,” he said.
Of the incomplete cases, 49,000 have all the required documentation to be completed but fall in the above categories, while 15,000 lack the proper documentation to enable them to be completed.
The Ministry of Justice’s division manager for community justice, Martine Urujeni, told the meeting the numbers were compiled in March shortly after the Legal Aid Week.
“The numbers are put together based on the ones we got from each district. We should all know that execution of judgments does not take only one week. Nyanza and Huye districts in Southern Province take the lead when it comes to failure to execute compensation cases. Gatsibo District also has many unresolved cases,” she said.
However, Urujeni cited Burera and Nyagatare districts as having cleared the backlog.
Senator Marie Claire Mukasine tasked the minister to keep his word, pointing out that slowing down delivery of justice affected the victims.
“When it comes to the law, justice must be served. Those who lost and those who won should be given what the law stipulates. A lot of work has been done, many sacrifices have been made. This Gacaca chapter needs to be closed once and for all,” she said.
Gacaca courts are lauded for laying the foundation for peace, reconciliation and unity in the country.
By the time of their closure in 2012, homegrown approach to justice had used a total budget of about Rwf30 billion while 1.6 million suspects had been convicted, 270,000 acquitted and over 75,000 tried and convicted in absentia.
Up to 1.2 million of these cases fell in the third category, which involved suspects accused of crimes of a relatively lesser magnitude such as looting and destruction of property.