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Republic of Rwanda Repubulika y'u Rwanda

Justice & Reconciliation

1. Justice

a. Ministry of Justice (MINIJUST)

The vision of Ministry of Justice is to promote and facilitate the Rule of law in the country by emphasizing equality of all persons before the law and ensuring that judicial institutions are effective and efficient in the provision of legal services to the public.  The minister of justice also serves as the Government of Rwanda’s Attorney General.

Website: www.minijust.gov.rw

b. Gacaca Courts

In order to accelerate the delivery of justice after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the Rwandan Government returned to the traditional Gacaca Court system. The local Gacaca courts, meaning ‘Justice on the Grass or Dialogue Justice’, combined the traditional local justice system with modern jurisprudence, with the aim of achieving truth, justice, and reconciliation.

After Genocide, more than 120,000 individuals were arrested and provisionally detained for the crime of Genocide and other crimes against humanity. They were awaiting trial, yet the judicial system had been completely destroyed.

General amnesty was not an option in such a situation, and it was evident to both the Government of Rwanda and the International Community that all the perpetrators of Genocide and other crimes against humanity should be prosecuted and judged within a reasonable time

Restoration of the judicial system

Gacaca Courts were able to try 1, 958,634 cases of Genocide within a short time (trials began on 10/03/2005 in pilot Sectors). This is an irrefutable evidence of the collective will and ability of Rwandans to overcome huge challenges of their country and work for its faster development.

The achievements of Gacaca Courts are exceptionally greater than to those of any other justice system that investigated and tried Genocide cases either in Rwanda or elsewhere such as at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Website: www.inkiko-gacaca.gov.rw

Read more on Gacaca Courts on: http://www.minijust.gov.rw/uploads/media/GACACA_COURTS_IN_RWANDA.pdf

c. Supreme Court

In Rwanda, The Supreme Court is the highest ranking court of the country. Placed under its President’s authority, the essential mission of the Supreme Court is to ensure equitable law enforcement according to the logic of complementarity of powers in a democratic society.

In 2003, a new Constitution was adopted on 4/6/2003. It enhanced guiding principles for a judicial reform. It also limited the number of judges serving in the Supreme Court, which was made the highest court of appeal of the land and the new courts were created as well.

The High Court replaced the four courts of appeal. Tribunal of commerce and the High Court of Commerce were established. At the lower level, “Tribunaux de Canton” were replaced by Primary Courts whose jurisdiction was extended to criminal offences. Traditional mechanisms of dispute resolution, the Abunzi (Mediation Committee) were also introduced to handle with petty cases that were previously leading to case backlog and consume an unnecessary and considerable amount of time to ordinary judges.

There was reform for special courts. The “Conseil de Guerre” was replaced by the Military Tribunal and the Military Court of Appeal became the Military High court.

Gacaca courts were also introduced in 2001 to deal with cases of Genocide after it become obvious that conventional courts could not handle the hundreds of thousand cases then.

The new structure of courts whose pyramid is headed by the Supreme Court allows specialization and there are divisions that deal with specific legal matters at the intermediate level for example: Administrative cases, labour cases and cases involving children are dealt with in special chambers.

The law also established a special chamber at the High Court to exclusively try cases of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that are extradited or transferred from abroad. The reform was also for institutions that are in the justice chain such as the Prosecution Authority for the first time.

The National Constitution establishes the governing principles of the National Public Prosecution Authority and the Military Prosecution department.

Website: www.supremecourt.gov.rw

d. Community Service for Prisoners (TIG)

TIG is an innovative punishment programme which allows people convicted of participating in the genocide to serve part of their sentences doing community services, is helping to put in place a new form of justice in Rwanda, which focuses on ideas of unity and reconciliation but also contributing on national development. TIG, a French acronym meaning “community service as an alternative penalty to imprisonment”, was introduced in 2005.

Some of the activities under TIG include speeding up the construction of classrooms under the nine and twelve (9&12) Years Basic Education programme, environment protection through terracing, building and repair of roads, land consolidation, construction of houses for vulnerable genocide survivors, paving stones, planting cassava, coffee/tea among others. 

The convicts under TIG meet in a camp for a specified period of time and are taught vital skills that will help them when they are reintegrated back into the community. They also receive Civic Education lessons and training in literacy and numeracy. These include lessons on the History of Rwanda, Government Policies, Unity and Reconciliation, fight against genocide ideology, guarding against divisionism etc. They are also given an opportunity play games with local residents of areas in which they are working

A considerable number of TIG convicts have completed their sentence and have been reintegrated back in their communities. They are different from what they were before 1994.

Website: http://www.rcs.gov.rw/

e. Ombudsman

The Office of Ombudsman is an independent public institution which was established in 2003 by the Constitution of Republic of Rwanda of 4th June 2003 in article 182. Its Organization and Functioning were established by law n° 25/2003 of 15th August 2003 which was modified and complemented by law n° 17/2005 of 18th August 2005. It became operational in 2004.

Website: http://www.ombudsman.gov.rw/

f. Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS)

RCS has transformed itself into an institution that rehabilitates convicts to become responsible citizens when they eventually serve their time rather than a punishment oriented body. On top of this, the institution has increasingly become income generating rather than a funding consuming body. Currently the institution has 14 correctional Centres countrywide

Website: http://www.rcs.gov.rw/

2. Reconciliation

a. National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC)

The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) was created in March 1999 by a parliamentary law  to promote Unity and  Reconciliation among Rwandans in the aftermath of the devastating 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to mark a major milestone in changing, fundamentally, effects of bad governance based on discrimination and exclusion. NURC has been a pivotal institution in the process of unity and reconciliation policy implementation, social trust and social cohesion towards the main goal achievement of building a united country.

With reference to the article 139 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda establishing national commissions and specialised organs and law No 35/2008 of 08th August, the Commission was assigned eight responsibilities: 

  1. To prepare and coordinate the national programs aimed at promoting national unity and reconciliation;
  2. Establish and promote mechanisms for restoring and strengthening the Unity and Reconciliation of Rwandans;
  3. To educate, sensitise and mobilise the population in areas of national unity and reconciliation;
  4. To carry out research, organise debates, disseminate ideas and make publications on the promotion of peace, and the unity and reconciliation of Rwandans;
  5. To propose measures and actions that can contribute to the eradication of divisionism among Rwandans and reinforce unity and reconciliation;
  6. To denounce and fight actions, publications and utterances that promote any kind of division and discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia. To make an annual report and other reports that may be deemed necessary, on the level of attainment of national unity and reconciliation;
  7. Monitor how public institutions, leaders and the population in general comply with the National Unity and reconciliation policy and principle.

 For further information visit the website of NURC: http://www.nurc.gov.rw/


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