A draft law that seeks to have Gacaca courts prosecute Genocide suspects classified in Category One is now in the Senate after it sailed through the Chamber of Deputies. Gacaca courts only had the mandate to try suspects under Categories Two and Three of the Genocide crimes.
Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama tabled the bill before the Upper Chamber of Parliament on Tuesday. He said that once passed, the law would help speed up the over 7,341 category One Genocide cases this year.
“If all these cases were to be tried by conventional courts, it would take too long to deliver justice,” he added.
The minister said that one of the main reasons Gacaca courts had not been given the mandate to try top Genocide masterminds was because the death penalty was still in force, but following the scrapping of the capital punishment last year, the semi-traditional courts can now successfully handle the Category One Genocide cases.
The category includes people accused of planning the Genocide, rapists, top leaders who were behind the killings and ringleaders of death squads.
The bill stipulates that defendants falling under that category, who refused to confess, plead guilty, repent and apologise risk receiving life imprisonment if found guilty. Those who confessed and apologized face prison sentences ranging between twenty five and thirty years.
Karugarama requested senators to support the bill, adding that by doing so, they will assist many people get justice before the year runs out.
There were already signs on the first day the Bill was discussed in the Senate that the Upper House was on the verge of passing the draft law.
Senator Odette Nyiramirimo said that the bill was timely because there were some Genocide perpetrators who had committed rape crimes and had not been brought to book yet.
Senator Joseph Karemera suggested the inclusion of a provision showing penalties awaiting Gacaca judges who involve themselves in corruption.