Rwanda local courts end genocide trials

June 18, 2012 at 2:21 PM
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KIGALI, Rwanda, June 18 (UPI) -- Human rights activists say a controversial plan to settle genocide charges in Rwanda has come to a close with mixed results.

The community courts, known as gacaca, were pressed into service by the United Nations after the bloody 1994 genocide campaign in which ethnic Hutu soldiers massacred around 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and more-moderate Hutus.

While the U.N. handled the trials of the accused ringleaders, scores of lesser players in the tragedy were tried in gacacas, which until then had been used to sort out minor local disputes, often through negotiated settlements.

The BBC said nearly 2 million defendants went through the gacaca system with 65 percent being found guilty. Another 10,000 defendants died in prison awaiting trial.

Activists monitoring the system said they were troubled at the lack of legal standards in the gacacas, including the election of unqualified judges and a lack of defense lawyers. In many cases, defendants found guilty were simply turned loose in their communities after serving their time in prison.

"Survivors are worried about their security because they are living side by side with those who had wanted to previously exterminate them,"Albert Gasake of the Survivors' Fund Organisation told the BBC. "Suspicion is very high."

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