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Between Law and Culture: Rwanda's Gacaca and Postcolonial Legality

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This article recounts a clash between an establishment international nongovernmental organization (NGO), Amnesty International, and the government of Rwanda over the meaning of international human rights norms in a postconflict society. It offers a critical perspective on the mainstream human rights community's due process critique of Rwanda's gacaca—a system of over ten thousand local judicial bodies modeled on a precolonial communal dispute resolution the Rwandan government introduced to process the over one hundred twenty thousand suspects crowding its prisons following the 1994 genocide. This moment of norm contestation offers a lens to broader problems facing the human rights regime. It argues that Amnesty International's legalistic approach to the gacaca prevents it from appreciating its unique postcolonial hybrid form, and that other approaches, such as the one adopted by Penal Reform International, are perhaps better models for human rights praxis in the developing world.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Trial Chamber II of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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