Whether a complaint must be filed in writing for a case to be heard by the "gacaca" courts; what the "punitive expeditions," organized in 2003-2004 by the government authorities following the assassination of potential witnesses, consisted of and whether those expeditions deterred people from intimidating witnesses (2004-2006) [RWA101090.FE]

A March 2005 newsletter published by Lawyers Without Borders (Avocats sans frontières, ASF) provided the following information. People accused of crimes in connection with [M1]the 1994 genocide have been grouped into three categories. Those in the first category are accused of the most serious crimes; and those in the second category, of homicide, attempted homicide or serious violations of bodily integrity resulting in death. The third category comprises those accused of less serious crimes, that is, property crimes (see also Rwanda 19 June 2004, art. 51). Cases in the first category fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial or military courts or of the Supreme Court, while cases in the second and third categories are under the authority of the gacaca courts in the respective sectors and cells. There are approximately 1,500 sector courts and 9,000 cell courts.

The following information was provided during a 13 February 2006 telephone interview by the executive secretary of the Human Rights League in the Great Lakes Region (Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands lacs, LDGL), a non-governmental organization in Kigali, Rwanda, whose mission is [translation] "to defend and . . . promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly in the countries of the Great Lakes region of Africa" (LDGL 12 June 2005).

The cases of the accused in the second and third categories are investigated by the traditional criminal justice system (the public prosecutor's office and the judicial police) and then transferred to the appropriate gacaca court, that is, to the authority where the alleged crime was committed. A person can also submit a complaint directly to the gacaca court. In both cases (cases investigated by the traditional justice system or complaints submitted directly to the gacaca court), the plaintiff can submit his or her complaint either orally or in writing. Article 12 of the Organic Law on the Organization, Jurisdiction and Duties of the Gagaca Authorities Responsible for Prosecuting and Deciding on Offences Constituting the Crime of Genocide or Other Crimes Against Humanity Committed Between 1 October 1990 and 31 December 1994 stipulates that the gacaca court coordination committee has the authority to [translation] "register the complaints, testimony and evidence submitted by the population " (Rwanda 19 June 2004, art. 12(2)). In addition, article 46 of that law prescribes that the department of public affairs can also [translation] "receive information and complaints regarding crimes" (ibid., art. 46).

With regard to the "punitive expeditions," the LDGL's executive secretary explained that, in 2003-2004, when a person was killed in a given region, the government authorities arrested all the people in the deceased's neighbourhood, interrogated them, and then put some of them in prison (LDGL 13 Feb. 2006). The government authorities also warned that the community would be held responsible for any new deaths (ibid.). According to the LDGL's executive secretary, that threat put an end to the killings, but it did not end veiled harassment and verbal threats (ibid.).

The LDGL's executive secretary also indicated that, since November 2005, other assassinations have been committed, particularly in the regions of Kigali-Ngali, Gisenyi and Kibuye (ibid.). She attributed this renewed violence to the fact that many prisoners had just been released and that security measures following an administrative reform had been relaxed (ibid.). Many government officials had been removed from office following the restructuring, and new employees were unable to ensure adequate security (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Avocats sans frontières (ASF). March 2005. "Zoom... Les juridictions gacaca au Rwanda." http://www.asf.be/FR/FRnews/Newsletter_2005_II_FR.htm [Accessed 13 Feb. 2006]

Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands lacs (LDGL). 13 February 2006. Telephone interview with the executive secretary.

_____. 12 June 2005. "Présentation : qu'est ce que la LDGL?." http://www.ldgl.org/article.php3?id_article=1 [Accessed 14 Feb. 2006]

Rwanda. 19 June 2004. Loi organique portant organisation, compétence et fonctionnement des juridictions gacaca chargées des poursuites et du jugement des infractions constitutives du crime de génocide et d'autres crimes contre l'humanité commis entre le 1er octobre 1990 et le 31 décembre 1994. http://www.grandslacs.net/doc/3676.pdf [Accessed 13 Feb. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internets sites, including: Amnesty International, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch.

Associated documents