Finished Summary Workshop “The Gacaca courts that judged the crime of genocide in Rwanda: dialogue for reparations and building relationships between victims and perpetrators who live in the neighborhood” (Jan. 31)


Category: Workshop

Research Group: A03 Migrants & RefugeesB03 Peace Building

The workshop “The Gacaca courts that judged the crime of genocide in Rwanda: the dialogue for reparations and building relationships between victims and perpetrators who live in the neighborhood” will be jointly organized by B03 “Trust and Peace Building in Conflict Affected Areas” and A03 “Migrants, Refugees, and Community Building.”

Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2023, at 10:00-12:00
Venue: Online via Zoom
Presentation: Natsuki Katayama (Osaka University)
Discussant: Yukie Osa (Rikkyo University)
*This workshop is only open to members of the “Islamic Trust Studies”

10:00-10:05 Introduction by Masako Ishii
10:05-10:45 Natsuki Katayama “The Gacaca courts that judged the crime of genocide in Rwanda: the conversation relationship building between victims and offenders for solving the problem of reparation”
10:45-11:00 Comments and discussion by discussant
11:00-11:30 General Discussion
11:30-12:00 Internal Meeting

In Rwanda, a country in Africa, more than five hundred thousand Tutsi were killed during the genocide occurred in 1994. As many Hutu civilians incited by the government participated in the genocide, rural habitants who had coexisted and interacted in the neighborhood were divided into victims and perpetrators. The new government implemented provisional courts called “Gacaca” which judged civilians related to the genocide in municipalities throughout the country from 2001 to 2012. All habitants of eighteen years and over were obliged to participate in the operation of the courts, and the number of perpetrators tried in the Gacaca courts totally reached about one million. The Gacaca courts sentenced to imprisonment and community service such as road building and house building for murder and injurious assault and to reparation for larceny and property damage. In my oral survey, as most of the perpetrators whom I interviewed were tried for all crimes, they started paying reparations after their terms of imprisonment and community service. However, the field survey conducted from 2014 to 2016 showed many cases that they haven’t paid reparations in full yet. The reparations for the property plundered by the perpetrators are so heavy that many perpetrators cannot clear them off even with all their wealth. As a result, they are reduced to poverty because of the loss of farmland and livestock. At the same time, the victims, who had their property carried away, are also reduced to poverty because they cannot receive reparations. The government decided to require both sides to solve the issue of reparations between those concerned instead of taking over reparations, and therefore further delays of payment cause a serious chain of poverty. Though both victims and perpetrators are in such a predicament, they are making every effort to solve the issue of reparations through dialogue in daily interacting with one another in the neighborhood even after the genocide. This presentation will demonstrate the practice of building relationships between victims and perpetrators.

Contact: Saki Yamamoto (yamamoto_saki[at]


  This presentation considered how the relationships between victims and perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda have been built by dialogue for reparations of genocide highlighting the speaker’s oral surveys with people concerned to the genocide and the cases in the records of the Gacaca courts verified with her oral surveys. The presenter obtained the research permission from the Rwanda Ministry of Education to conduct oral surveys and obtained the research permission from National Commission for the Fight against Genocide to read records of the Gacaca courts.
The law of Gacaca courts provides that indictment be waived on condition that a victim and a perpetrator have come to an accord on reparations ordered by the court. By this provision, perpetrators had to directly negotiate with victims, obtain their agreement, and make reparations to the victims until the payment in full. Therefore, the dialogue for reparations has been established during this process. As victims and perpetrators have lived together as neighboring villagers in farm villages even since the time before the genocide, they are encouraged to have dialogues for reparations by living together as neighbors also after the genocide. The problem of reparations is not considered only as an issue between persons involved but also as that of the whole community and their families and neighboring habitants also participate in the dialogue to deal with it, so the relationship between the parties extends to over that among habitants of their community. Therefore, the presentation demonstrated the cases in that the introduction of dialogue for resolving the reparation issues resulted in building of relationship and trust among victims, perpetrators, their families, and their neighboring habitants.
  Discussant Prof. Yukie Osa gave a comment to the presentation as follows. According to the Genocide Convention, the crime of genocide is defined as a crime that takes place with the intent to destroy another group. Therefore, the crimes committed without the intent to destroy another group, such as a crime caused by jealous contempt arisen from pre-genocide relationship even which are committed during the genocide, the crimes committed among the same ethnic group, are classified into crimes against humanity. The discussant noted that the crimes judged in the Gacaca courts might have included not only crimes of genocide but also crimes against humanity in spite of the title of presentation, “The Gacaca courts that judged the crime of genocide in Rwanda.”
  The presenter summarized information she collected in the field in response to the comments and argued as follows. The law of the Gacaca courts stipulates the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity according to the Geneva Convention and Convention on the Non-Applicability of the Statutory Limitation to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. However, these crimes were actually not judged separately. The reason seems that the courts adopted the trial method as easy as possible for members of a local community who participated in the Gacaca courts as judges or staffs without any qualification for the legal profession such as the bench, the bar, or the prosecution. The Gacaca courts determined sentences in accord with crime types which the perpetrators had committed (murder, rape, violence, theft, property damage, etc.), and ignored if the perpetrators had the intent to destroy another group. It seems that crimes and sentences would have been more fractionalized if the courts had distinguished the crime of genocide from crimes against humanity.
  This report mentioned only a part of the comments gave by the discussant and the replies of the presenter. However, there were various questions and ideas from the floor, which will greatly contribute to the development of the presenter’s research.

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