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The Power of Gacaca
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The Power of Gacaca
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Rwanda: Gacaca Justice
Rwanda's gacaca courts are part of a system of community justice established in the wake of the 1994 genocide. They aim to promote community healing by making the punishment of perpetrators faster and less expensive to the state, moving the country closer to its ultimate goal of achieving truth, justice, and reconciliation.
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Directed by Olivier Uwayezu.

Originally part of the ViewChange Online Film Contest.

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Segment 1

PETER SISSONS [BBC Newscaster]
Red Cross officials say tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, have now become victims in the war in Rwanda, where government forces have been fighting Rwanda Patriotic Front rebels for 12 days.
VOICEOVER
After the genocide, the new Rwandan Patriotic Front government struggled with developing just means for the humane detention and prosecution of more than 100,000 people accused of genocide, war crimes, and related crimes against humanity. By 2000, approximately 120,000 alleged perpetrators of genocide were crammed into Rwanda's prisons and communal jails. The gacaca courts, pronounced as "gachacha," were inspired by tradition and established in 2001 in Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsi, were slaughtered.
VOICEOVER
Originally, the gacaca allowed to settle differences [between] neighborhood families in the hills. They were very decent for more than judicial practices. It was a meeting chaired by former villagers where everyone could ask for the floor. Gacaca means "sweet grass" in Kinyarwanda, that is to say, the place where people gather. The mission of the system is to achieve truth, justice, and reconciliation. It aims to promote community healing by making the punishment of perpetrators faster and less expensive to the state, the reconstructions of what happened during the genocide, the speeding up of the legal proceeding by using as many courts as possible, the reconciliation of all Rwandans, and building the unity.
VOICEOVER
When we launched the idea of gacaca, [there were] 130,000 prisoners languishing for years in the prisons. It is estimated that it would have taken over 200 years for the Rwandan justice system to judge all of them. No one would have been alive: not the judges, nay the perpetrators, nor the victims. The law of August, 1996 on the organization and prosecution of crimes of genocide or crimes against humanity has created three categories of criminals: planners, organizers, and leaders of the genocide -- those who acted in positions of authority, the renowned murderers, and those guilty of sexual torture or rape; the authors, co-authors, or accomplices of intentional homicide or attacks against a person resulting in death; and those who have committed offenses against property. Until the production of this film, statistics showed that among all cases already judged, 12,000 that were classified in the first category were transferred in tribunal court; 300,896 in the second category; and 819,726 were settled by gacaca courts.
VOICEOVER
Those tried by the gacaca are encouraged to reveal all that is in their knowledge in exchange for large remissions. The suspects who fully cooperate with the tribunal may well expect a penalty equal to half of what the law provides originally and serve as a work of general interest, or TIG. TIG means "travaux d'interet general" and allows prisoners to complete their sentences through participation in activities such as clearing ground, road building, and construction of houses for genocide survivors. This program of TIG brought unity and reconciliation among the population.
MAN [TIG participant]
It is a great pleasure for me to take part in TIG program. As a Rwandan who perpetrated the genocide, it's a great forgiveness that I benefited, because I never thought that I could be released from the prison. As someone who is on the TIG program, I am happy to follow lessons related to moral lessons, to learn reading and writing, as well as vocational training that will help me in the future. We are very happy, because people who destroyed this country are the same people who are building it.
VOICEOVER
This is a great achievement of the gacaca court, done in nine years instead of over 200 years. Therefore, gacaca courts can be an answer to all countries that account similar cases.