In a move that only vindicates widespread suspicions about the intentions and objectivity of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the organisation has sought to distort the otherwise heartwarming legacy left behind by Gacaca justice system, one of the indelible successes that are synonymous with the post-Genocide Rwanda.
Through Gacaca, Rwandans adjudicated more than 1.2 million Genocide related cases in a record period – just under 10 years, as opposed to the hundreds of years it would have taken through any conventional justice system.
With the community-based courts now virtually closed, the writing is visibly on the wall: Gacaca has achieved all its principal objectives, namely; dispensing justice, uncovering the truth about the Genocide, and helping reconcile the Rwandan society.
Even as the HRW attempted to berate such a huge accomplishment by the people of Rwanda, with a title that contradicts much of the report, ‘Rwanda: Justice Compromised: The Legacy of Rwanda’s community-based Gacaca Courts,’ it is clear that the rights group itself had no choice but to acknowledge that the semi-traditional courts enabled survivors, suspects and their relatives to come together and openly revisit the circumstances that led to the slaughter of their kin and neighbours.
Indeed, it was Rwandans’ commitment to resolve their own problems in a free and candid atmosphere that resulted in the fair and transparent trials under Gacaca, a feat that HRW sought to belittle.
This free atmosphere did not only encourage hundreds of thousands of suspects to confess out of their own free will, but also told the truth about the killings, resulting in the finding and exhumations of the remains of thousands of victims, something that would otherwise have never occurred.
HRW needs to understand that while there is no system that is flawless, Rwandans cherish and are proud of their accomplishments under the Gacaca justice system. Above all, they are actively building on its success to achieve more together.