n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Genocide in Rwanda : detention and prison involvement

Volume 16, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



In the article Genocide in Rwanda: Detention and Prison Involvement, the widespread killings of 1994 are discussed against the background of prison involvement in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. In a process where more than 800 000 people died, the end result became the imprisonment of more than 100 000 awaiting-trial inmates. This created a penal crisis in Rwanda and the country became one of only 11 countries in the world where more than 100 000 people are subjected to imprisonment. Today, more than eight years after the genocide, people are still awaiting trial and estimates are that the normal justice process will take more than one hundred years to finalise genocide cases. The genocide in Rwanda brought about unique challenges in criminal justice. For the first time the important role of prisons in crimes against humanity came under the spotlight. In the case of Rwanda, at least four international prisons systems would eventually become part of the genocide history. Guilty parties will be detained in Rwanda, Mali, Benin and Swaziland, while awaiting trial inmates are detained in Rwanda and a detention center in Arusha, Tanzania, which is managed by the United Nations. At the same time it is expected of other (African) countries to arrest genocide accused and transfer them to the abovementioned detention center. Handing down justice is also done in an indifferent way. People accused of genocide-related charges might appear in any of three types of courts. At first, there is the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. Secondly, thirteen courts in Rwanda also deal with genocide-related cases. In the third instance, gacaca courts, based on traditional justice, would become responsible for trying the bulk of the genocide suspects, bringing the estimate time in which genocide cases could be finalised to five years. The Rwanda genocide introduces a whole new approach to international corrections and, indeed, criminal justice. In the process new challenges develop and new approaches to traditional imprisonment need to be researched, developed and implemented.

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