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This article responds to the normative question of whether post-conflict justice and reconciliation should be determined at the global, national or local level through an analysis of the tripartite judicial framework that has emerged in Rwanda in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. It evaluates the experience of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), national courts and gacaca courts across two interdisciplinary theoretical debates: first, the anthropological and philosophical question of relativism versus universalism; second, the socio-legal question of retribution versus restoration. The article argues that these two theoretical debates, pervasive in the literature, represent false dichotomies and that, in the case of Rwanda, there has been a complex and dynamic relationship between approaches to justice adopted at each level. Although in practice political tensions and elite interests have created contradictions and undermined judicial credibility at every level, the experience points to how each level could potentially be complementary.

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Journal article


Palgrave Macmillan

Publication Date



17 (5)


735 - 752