Gacaca courts system deliver on its mandate by over 95 percent and ensured a fair trial in Genocide cases.
The observation is contained in a report released by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) reacting to several reports on the human rights situation in the country published over the last year by various institutions and human rights bodies.
Among them is a report released in May this year by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) titled “Rwanda: Justice Compromised: The Legacy of Rwanda’s community-based Gacaca Courts”, which claimed that the courts mandate left much to be desired.
But the latest report signed by the president of the NCHR, Sylvie Zainabo Kayitesi, indicates that the laws, which set up Gacaca, were based on vital guidelines that ensured a fair trial and the rights of both parties to be respected.
“In general, the Commission observed that both parties to a trial, be it the accused or the victims, were provided with enough time to prepare their cases, that both parties exercised their rights in cross-examining witnesses through the president of the jury,” NCHR argued.
The Commission also stated that the principle of no double jeopardy was respected and that the accused continued to be presumed innocent throughout the trial.
The rights body also argued that the trial in absentia of many suspects, which HRW argues was not fair, was an acceptable process, highlighting that the most important thing is that the accused is accorded a right to ask court to revise the case once they hear of it, which happened in a dozen of the cases.
“The NCHR, basing on its duty of monitoring the respect of human rights in Gacaca courts since the day they started operations, confirms that trial proceedings were carried out well, by at least 95 percent.”
NCHR also reacted on the 2011 report by Amnesty International on freedoms of expression, saying: “The NCHR monitors closely the respect of media freedom. There are some journalists who publish and disseminate information without abiding with the laws governing the media…
“…and the other laws governing Rwandan citizens in general, and this has resulted in prosecution since they got to be accused of going astray contrary to the law and international convention of civil and political rights, particularly its article 19,” it adds.