Hybridity, Holism and Traditional Justice: The Case of the Gacaca Courts in Post-Genocide Rwanda

68 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2007

See all articles by Phil Clark

Phil Clark

University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies


The article explores the objectives and processes of the gacaca community courts in Rwanda, which are designed to hear cases stemming from the 1994 genocide. Specifically, the article investigates four elements of hybridity within gacaca that current sources have not sufficiently acknowledged: the hybrid history and mechanics of gacaca, as it has developed from a traditional or customary mode of dispute settlement to a formalised, codified, nationwide system designed to deal with complex genocide crimes, crucially combining legal and non-legal elements; the need for a multiplicity of legal and non-legal approaches to analysing gacaca, focusing on the Rwandan population's interpretations of the institution; gacaca's hybrid methods in responding to genocide crimes, particularly its emphasis on popular participation and modes of communal negotiation within formal, legal boundaries; finally, gacaca's simultaneous pursuit of multiple post-genocide aims, combining legal and non-legal objectives, including restorative justice. The article is based on the author's more than 200 interviews with gacaca judges, genocide suspects and survivors, and firsthand observations of gacaca hearings. Linking the various strands of argument is the contention that gacaca responds to a variety of pragmatic and complex social needs in Rwandan society and therefore manifests a level of dynamism and complexity commensurate to that of the post-genocide situation, which many sources have failed to capture adequately.

Keywords: gacaca, Rwanda, genocide, justice, reconciliation, hybridity, restorative justice

Suggested Citation

Clark, Phil, Hybridity, Holism and Traditional Justice: The Case of the Gacaca Courts in Post-Genocide Rwanda. George Washington International Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 4, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1031739

Phil Clark (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies ( email )

Wellington Square
Oxford, OX1 2JD
United Kingdom

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