Added: July 2, 2016 – Last updated: July 2, 2016


Author: Emma M. Costello

Title: Justice for Whom?

Subtitle: The Gacaca Courts and Restorative Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Rwanda

Thesis: B.A. Thesis, University of Michigan

Advisor: Melanie Tanielian

Year: 2016

Pages: iii + 75pp.

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century, 21st Century | African History: Rwandan History | Prosecution: Trials / Gacaca Courts; Types: Genocidal Rape / Rwandan Genocide


Link: Deep Blue: Repository of the University of Michigan (Free Access)


Abstract: »Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In 2001, Rwanda incorporated a traditional, community-based method of conflict resolution known as gacaca into their transitional justice program, and in 2008, the Rwandan government decided to use this system to try perpetrators of sexual violence from the genocide. This thesis analyzes the effectiveness of the gacaca court system in providing restorative justice to Rwandan rape survivors, concluding that gacaca has failed to achieve this objective. When deciding to transfer sexual crimes to the jurisdiction of gacaca, the Rwandan government did not reevaluate the goals that this system was designed to achieve, nor did it address the challenges that gacaca posed to survivors of sexual violence. Rather, the government considered only the practical need to expedite the processing of genocide cases and thus sacrificed the unique needs of survivors of sexual violence. I argue that community-based, women-centered organizations that focus their resources on addressing the practical needs of rape survivors have been more effective at providing “justice” to survivors of sexual violence from the genocide than the state system of gacaca and should therefore be incorporated into the transitional justice framework of Rwanda.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. i)
  Acknowledgment (p. ii)
  Chapter 1: Introduction (p. 1)
    Pre-Colonial and Colonial History of Rwanda (p. 2)
    Independence, the “Hutu Revolution,” and Civil War (p. 4)
    Research Question and Methodology (p. 8)
  Chapter 2: Sexual Violence as a Weapon of Genocide (p. 10)
    Sexual Violence During the Rwandan Genocide (p. 11)
      Propaganda (p. 12)
      Endorsement of and Command to Rape by Authority Figures (p. 14)
      Strategies of Genocidal Rape (p. 15)
    The Emergence of Rape as Genocide in International Law (p. 20)
  Chapter 3: The Gacaca Court System as an Institution of Transitional Justice (p. 23)
    Reviving the Gacaca Courts (p. 24)
    Objectives of Gacaca (p. 26)
      Accelerating Genocide Trials and Reducing Prison Overcrowding (p. 27)
      Reducing Poverty (p. 28)
      Establishing a “Rwandan” Model of Justice (p. 29)
      Individualizing Guilt and Curbing the Desire for Revenge (p. 30)
      Truth (p. 30)
      Justice (p. 32)
  Chapter 4: Survivors of Sexual Violence within the Gacaca System (p. 35)
    Transferring Sexual Crimes to Gacaca (p. 35)
    Barriers to Testifying at Gacaca for Survivors of Sexual Violence (p. 38)
      Stigma and Victim Blaming (p. 39)
      Violence and Intimidation (p. 40)
      Lack of Communication Concerning Sexual Acts (p. 42)
      Structural Barriers within Gacaca Law (p. 43)
  Chapter 5: The Failure of Gacaca to Achieve its Transitional Justice Objectives for Survivors of Sexual Violence (p. 46)
    Truth (p. 46)
    Justice (p. 51)
      Punitive and Deterrent Justice (p. 51)
      Distributive Justice (p. 52)
      Restorative Justice (p. 54)
    Justice for Whom? (p. 56)
  Chapter 6: An Alternative Model of Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Rwanda (p. 60)
    Economic Assistance (p. 61)
    Healthcare (p. 63)
    Psychological Health, Trauma Counseling, and Social Support (p. 64)
    Empowerment and Women’s Rights (p. 65)
    A Comprehensive Approach to Justice (p. 66)
    Implications for the Future (p. 67)
  Appendix A (p. 70)
  References (p. 71)

Wikipedia: History of Africa: History of Rwanda | Court: Gacaca court | Genocide: Rwandan Genocide / Rape during the Rwandan Genocide | Types of rape: Genocidal rape