KIGALI — Rwanda's Gacaca grassroots courts that have judged the bulk of the people suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide will close in December, the country's justice minister said Friday.
"A final report will be completed by December and this chapter of Gacaca will be officially declared closed," Tharcisse Karugarama said in a statement.
Based on the age-old concept of a traditional village council, the Gacaca courts were created in 2001 in a bid to clear a crippling backlog of genocide-related cases in the national courts system.
"Through Gacaca we have been able to judge and resolve up to 1.4 million dossiers," the minister said –"a great achievement that would have been impossible otherwise."
Rwanda's genocide claimed some 800,000 lives, mainly minority Tutsis, in a span of 100 days.
"There have been prison sentences ranging from five to ten years, life sentences that make up five to eight percent of the verdicts and acquittals that make up 20 to 30 percent," said Karugarama.
The Gacaca, which started functioning in 2005, were initially due to wind down by the end of 2007, but the date has been postponed several times due to the complexity of some of the cases before them.
According to the National Service of Gacaca Jurisdiction, a body that coordinates the grassroots courts' activities, the 97 remaining cases will be closed by July.
The courts have the jurisdiction to try those who took part in the killings, but not those suspected of planning the genocide on a national or regional level.
"All in all we are happy that we have a unique system that caters to our people needs, it may not be perfect for other nations but it serves us very well," said Karugarama.
Copyright © 2011 AFP