Govt should use traditional justice systems: Human rights groups

HUMAN rights groups have called on government to use traditional court systems alongside other transitional justice mechanisms in dealing with past human rights abuses to ensure post conflict justice, healing and reconciliation.


In a 30-page transitional justice policy brief titled Exploring Indigenous Transitional Justice in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (ZIMCET) and Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT), said traditional justice systems had successfully been used in other countries such as Rwanda.

“They have been deployed successfully in the Rwandese Gacaca courts, the Mato oput of Uganda, Barza intercommunautaire of DRC and Bashingantahe of Burundi, among other countries.

“Whilst traditional mechanisms of transitional justice are not panacea for all ills, they are an approach that so far has been underestimated by actors. They demonstrate that beyond the State, there are other existing institutions and actors for ensuring peace and justice,” the HZT and ZIMCET said in their policy brief.

According to Section 21 -253 of the Constitution, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) is tasked to ensure post conflict justice, healing and reconciliation.

The HZT and ZIMCET said the traditional justice systems need also to be incorporated to assist the NPRC.

“If traditional justice systems are administered effectively they can prove to be more transparent, less expensive and therefore more accessible, more in touch with community values, more conveniently located, and easier to understand than their formal system counterparts due to the use of familiar and indigenous languages.

“Indeed, studies have also shown that that those who preside over the traditional justice mechanism and processes are largely trusted in communities which offer significant opportunities for reconciliation and dispute resolution in non-adversarial ways,” the human rights groups said.

The HZT and ZIMCET said traditional justice systems have shown their efficacy in achieving truth seeking, acknowledgment, reconciliation, deterrence, reparations, enhanced community unity and security, justice and closure among communities.

“Traditional justice mechanisms have a way of bringing closure to most cases of human rights violations and community crimes. When victims and perpetrators meet, discuss and finalise the outstanding issues, there is usually an agreement to bring closure and finality to the case.

“This usually takes the form of performing traditional rituals such as nyaradzo/memorial service for the deceased, kurova guva/umbuyiso and kuchenurwa/cleansing for the perpetrator.

“In addition, because the fate of the disappeared, dead, stolen livestock is known, it becomes easier for victims’ families to get death certificates, and even finalize the Estate of the deceased.

Inheritance issues can also be dealt with in cases where families would not have distributed the estate fearing that the person might emerge one day,” the HZT and ZIMCET said.

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