[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 12:59 GMT
Rwanda killers face local justice
Court officials records confessions
Suspects will have to face tribunals made up of their neighbours
Traditional community courts in Rwanda have begun trying people accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 people were killed.

The courts have been set up to clear a backlog of tens of thousands of cases.

The judges are elected by the local community and can hand down sentences up to life imprisonment.

Some human rights organisations are concerned that suspects might not receive a fair trial, but others say it will help end overcrowding in prisons.

Hearings have begun in more than 100 places and are due to be held across Rwanda by the end of the year.

Some 12,000 gacaca courts have been set up because the country's conventional law courts have been overwhelmed and unable to try all those responsible.

Most of the killers will have to face tribunals made up of their own village neighbours who knew both murderers and victims.


Pilots schemes of gacaca, which means the small lawn where village elders congregate to solve disputes, have been running for several years.

100,000 plus suspects in jail
Circa 20,000 released to face gacaca courts in 2003
Some 6,500 already tried by regular courts
Arusha tribunal:
20 guilty verdicts
26 suspects on trial
17 suspects awaiting trail
3 acquittals
Source ICTR

The first trials will begin in some of the 750 village courts which have already been gathering evidence since 2001, drawing up definitive lists of those to be tried in their areas - some 60,000 people so far.

They will deal with major crimes like murder and serious assault, but rape cases will be heard by formal criminal courts.

Suspects, who will stand trial where they allegedly committed their crimes - confronted directly by their accusers - will not have access to lawyers and will have to represent themselves.

With only about 5% of some 120,000 imprisoned suspects tried to date, Rwandans are hoping that more than a decade on from the genocide, the village courts will settle cases speedily.

This will those allow those still in overcrowded prisons finally to return home and, advocates hope, resolve fear and mistrust between the communities.

The most important suspects - those accused of orchestration and genocide - will continue to go before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

This UN-mandated court sitting in the neighbouring Tanzanian town of Arusha has so far convicted 20 people and acquitted three.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific