Genocide, Justice, and Rwanda's Gacaca Courts

Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Christopher Uggen, Jean Damascène Gasanabo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


More than one million people participated in the 1994 genocide against the Rwandan Tutsi. How did Rwanda, whose criminal justice infrastructure was decimated by the genocide, attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice? In this article, we provide the first analysis of the outcomes of the gacaca courts, a traditional community-based justice system that was greatly modified to address crimes of genocide. After briefly reviewing the creation of the National Service of Gacaca Jurisdictions, we explain the court process. Then, we present an overview of the outcomes of the courts with a focus on the specific sanctions given to those found guilty. This article provides the first systematic analysis of these sanctions, contributing both an empirical overview and new insights into how Rwanda attempted to bring justice to the many citizens who took part in the genocidal violence. We conclude by briefly highlighting some successes and failures of the gacaca system and its broader lessons for justice in other contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-352
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by the University of Minnesota Graduate Research Partnership Program. Uggen is additionally supported by a Robert Wood Johnson Health Investigator Award, whereas Nyseth Brehm is supported by the National Science Foundation.


  • Rwanda
  • courts
  • genocide
  • punishment
  • restorative justice


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