As the world’s attention focuses on the brand-new International Criminal Court (ICC), the Damocles Network and Reporters Without Borders are in Rwanda to monitor the setting-up of gacacas (local traditional courts) and highlight cases of journalists soon to appear before them.
The two organisations fully support the establishment of the ICC, but point out that local and traditional courts also have a role in national reconciliation. "Unearthing the truth, identifying the victim, determining who took part and trying those responsible" are the official aims of the gacacas. The Damocles Network and Reporters Without Borders are in Rwanda to help this work along and see that impunity is brought to an end there.
The delegation, consisting of a journalist and a judge, arrived in Kigali on 1 July and will meet Rwandan officials, diplomats, NGO representatives and imprisoned journalists.
More than 120,000 people are in jail in Rwanda, including 30 journalists accused of having taken part in the 1994 genocide. However, both organisations consider that at least two of the journalists (Dominique Makeli and Tatiana Mukakibibi) are being held simply because they did their job of informing the public. Through these two symbolic cases, the two organisations want to help the inyangamugayo (the gacaca judges) to establish the truth in a fair and speedy trial.
The interest of the Damocles Network and Reporters Without Borders in national traditional justice, including the gacacas, comes at a time of new tension between Rwandan authorities and officials of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and as recent court decisions in Belgium have challenged several assumptions of international criminal law. More than ever, national courts have a leading part to play in the fight against impunity.