ArticlesVolume 20, Number 2 (2011)

Trying International Crimes on Local Lawns: The Adjudication of Genocide Sexual Violence Crimes in Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts

Abstract

During the Rwandan genocide sexual violence was used as a weapon of war to ravage a people. Women were tortured psychologically, physically and emotionally. For some women the “dark carnival” of the genocide has not ended. Living side by sidewith the men who committed violence against them, they must confront their past every day. This Article explores how,¬†post-genocide, the country has come to adjudicate these crimes in gacaca.¬†Gacaca is a unique method of transitional justice, one that calls upon traditional roots, bringing community members together to find the truth of what happened during the genocide and punish those who perpetrated violence. One scholar calls gacaca, “one of the boldest and most original ‘legal-social’ experiments ever attempted in the field of transitional justice.” Others, however, criticize gacaca for the impunity it grants to crimes committed by the current ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and its lack of due process and nonconformance to international fair trial processes. Most authors find that, for cases of sexual violence, gacaca is a wholly unsuitable forum.