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Rwanda's Gacaca Court Archives Considered For UNESCO Heritage List

Rwanda's Gacaca court archives could be registered to UNESCO's Documentary Heritage Listing on the recommendation of a national committee that is set to assess and discern different historical, cultural and documentary heritages that can be listed on the World's heritage list.

The committee is composed of different institutions under the guidance of Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO, librarians, archivists, directors of memory institutions, historians, researchers, academics and individual resources from civil society, private and public institutions working or interested in historical, cultural and documentary heritages. Documentary heritage is a fundamental inheritance of culture and historical memory that must be transmitted to future generations in the best possible condition and archives are the centres responsible for dealing with, conserving and spreading the word about this heritage. The UNESCO's Memory of the World program was initiated in 1992 with the aim of preserving the richness of different states which were threatened by wars, inadequate preservation systems, illegal trading like the one for the Maya cultural statuettes, lack of resources, looting and dispersal, destruction among others.

The programme seeks to preserve, protect, safeguard human documentary heritage against collective amnesia, neglect, and the ravages of time and climate conditions. Among the documentary heritages that have been proposed by historians, archivists and researchers is Gacaca Justice System, according to Albert Mutesa, the Secretary General of Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO.

After the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi where over one million people were killed, Rwanda initiated the Gacaca courts to handle to handle genocide crimes, Gacaca is a home-grown community based justice system. Through Gacaca Courts, Rwandans proved the capacity to solve their own problems, to mend the social fabric, revealed the truth about the Genocide; which had been prepared for a long-time.

Moreover, Gacaca Courts were used as one of the ways to eradicate impunity and a lesson to respect human rights, especially the right to life and equality of all Rwandans before the law. Gacaca justice system officially closed in 2012, after trying more than 1.9 million Genocide crimes in ten years.

To preserve Gacaca as National Documentary Heritage, scanning and digitalising of Gacaca court archives have successfully been completed.


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