Conflict Resolution Expert Participated in People-to-People Rule of Law Delegation
Professor Cheryl Beckett, an expert in conflict resolution, participated in a People-to-People Rule of Law delegation to Rwanda in December 2011. The delegation of nine U.S. lawyers and one judge, met with Rwandan officials, lawyers, and community members to discuss the process of reconciliation and mediation following mass genocide.
The people of Rwanda suffered unspeakable horrors in 1994. Fueled by propaganda, “neighbor turned against neighbor,” with tribal affiliation (Hutu, Tutsi, Twa) becoming a proxy for moral worth. Over the course of three months, the world stood by as one million people were killed, an untold number of women and girls were raped and exploited, and countless families were destroyed.
As part of the delegation, Professor Beckett had an opportunity to see first-hand the ways in which Rwanda has taken steps to confront its past while moving forward. She notes that the country drafted a new constitution in 2003, and it contains provisions designed as much to heal the nation as to provide rights. As direct victims in the violence of 1994, the constitution provides, for example, considerable protections for females, mandating that one-third of all public offices be held by women. The constitution also has strong anti-tribal discrimination laws, and it is now a crime to identify by tribe.
Among her many experiences, Professor Beckett learned of the use of the Gacaca Courts to try people accused of genocide. These courts are based on the old tribal community courts, with the accused forced to apologize for their wrongdoing and to provide help finding the bodies. The process allowed the citizens to create “dramatic memorials,” including the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where 250,000 victims were reburied and honored.
Professor Beckett expects to incorporate lessons learned from the Rwanda experience into her classroom and scholarly work, especially the theme of restorative justice.
See Beckett’s Presentation