Transitional justice is the measures that different countries implement, to repair the past by re-addressing human rights abuses in order to minimize repeating occurrences in the future. Transitional justice measures that are taken include, legal actions against actors who committed war crimes, as well as reparations to the affected people in various forms. The four elements of a transitional justice policy are criminal prosecutions, reparations, institutional reform, and truth commissions. Criminal prosecutions are the proper legal prosecution of genocide, human rights, and war crimes in order to give oppressed people their right to see their oppressor formally punished. Reparations are State acknowledgment of human rights violations and the rehabilitation or compensation of the victims effected. Institutional reform involves the disbanding of rogue institutional forces such as militias, government, police, and justice systems that violate the human rights of people. Truth commissions are the creation of a non influenced historic record of the human rights violation event in order, for affected people, to know the truth of the violations of their human rights, free from propaganda, from the more powerful group that oppressed them. The process of transitional justice takes a long time, various factors of government, ideas, loyalty, and cultural acceptance of the reforms taking place can often cause for issues with the implementation of political change.
The ethnic genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 left up to one million citizens dead, and communities destroyed. This event in history greatly pertains to transitional justice as the involvement of Rwandan citizens directly participating in the genocide, creates an interesting case for the following years and the deployment of reparations to the affected people. The transitional justice following the genocide in Rwanada involved the formation of the Gacaca court system and the U.N. creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as well as the mass imprisonment of people who were involved with the genocide. The Gacaca system was created by Africa and is a system based on truth and reconciliation. This system was used to speed up the formerly slow courts which would have taken many years to formally charge every suspect in the genocide. This court system allowed for reductions in sentences for confessing, this lead to the admission of involvement from many prisoners involved with the genocide. The court system was able to process 1.1 million cases by April 2009 after the formal integration of the courts in 2005. This system proved to be very effective in the Rwandan transitional justice. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was created by the U.N. in 1994 in response to the human rights violations. This international institutions was responsible for the persecution of people directly involved with the Rwandan genocide. The success of the ICTR is disputed, issues with witness and cultural integration with Rwanda can be seen as the case. Many of the witness for the cases did not have proper legal documentation due to the uprooting from the incident, therefore they had troubles giving testimonies that would provide the proper evidence to prosecute the person being tried. Culturally, the relocation of suspected individuals in order to hold court cases causes the retribution of the person to society to be of less importance. The deep rooted cultural notions of Africa as a community is overlooked by the ICTR, distancing the people from the cases takes away the amends that the individual owes to the community that they hurt. The ICTR actions are often unknown within the community so the feeling of reparation can not be felt.
The effects of the genocide in Rwanda are still strongly felt by the community today but transitional justice as stated can be a very long process taking many years. The formation of the Gacaca system and the ICTR has proved to be very successful in implementing transitional justice in Rwanda and will deepen their beneficial effects even more as time goes on.
Westberg, M. (2011). Rwanda’s Use of Transitional Justice After Genocide: The Gacaca Courts and the ICTR. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/20180/04-Westberg_Final.pdf?sequence=1
Shaw, R., & Waldorf, L. (n.d.). Localizing Transitional Justice. 3-26. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp236-us16/files/2013/06/3.2-Shaw-Localizing-Transitional-Justice-Introduction.pdf
ICTJ. (2011). What is Transitional Justice? | ICTJ. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from https://www.ictj.org/about/transitional-justice
What is Transitional Justice? Tribunals, Truth Commissions, and memorials [Video blog post]. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp236-us16/lecture-videos/what-is-transitional-justice-tribunals-truth-commissions-and-memorials/