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International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR) - Description [2004] PICTRes 18 (6 June 2004)

International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR)

Within a year of the creation of the ICTY, in April 1994, another massive ethnic conflict broke out in central Africa resulting first in the genocidal murder of about half a million members of the Tutsi tribe by members of the Hutu tribe in Rwanda, and then the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Hutus into the territory of neighboring countries. After much indecision, on November 8, 1994, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 955 providing for the establishment of the ICTR, an international criminal tribunal for the prosecution of persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed on the territory of Rwanda, and the prosecution of Rwandan citizens responsible for the genocide and other such violations of international law committed on the territory of neighboring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.

Although the ICTY and the ICTR have many commonalties (described in the ICTY) that differentiate them from all other international judicial fora, because of different factual circumstances surrounding the establishment of the two tribunals, the ICTR raises several issues that were not encountered by the Yugoslav Tribunal. For instance, both the ICTY and the ICTR were established by a resolution of the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Both are subsidiary organs of the Security Council under article 29 of the UN Charter. However, unlike the ICTY, the ICTR was created at the request of the government on the territory of which crimes were taking place (although the Rwandan government eventually voted against it). Moreover, unlike the case of former Yugoslavia, the Rwandan situation involved an internal armed conflict, which raises important questions relating to applicable law.

The Statute of the Rwanda Tribunal differs from that of the Yugoslav Tribunal not only in terms of applicable law, subject-matter and temporal, personal, and territorial jurisdictions, but also in terms of organizational structure. The ICTR is located in Arusha, Tanzania, while the ICTY is in The Hague, The Netherlands. Although the two tribunals share the same Appeals Chamber and are guided by the same chief Prosecutor, these shared organs are based at The Hague (12 hours by plane from Arusha). The Deputy Prosecutor is based in Kigali, Rwanda (17 hours by car from the seat of the Tribunal). This situation, combined with recurrent criticism of the administration of the ICTR, creates a challenge to the effective functioning of the Rwanda Tribunal, which is not experienced by any other international judicial forum.

Yet, at the same time, unlike in the case of the Yugoslav Tribunal, the main difficulty of which has been obtaining custody of the alleged offenders, some 90,000 persons implicated in the Rwandan genocide have been incarcerated in Rwanda and other States. Moreover, the ICTR has obtained custody of several high-level government and military officials suspected of planning and inciting the Rwandan genocide. Thus, oddly enough, while the ICTY has overcome its administrative and managerial difficulties but has not been able to try those ultimately responsible for the havoc caused in Yugoslavia, the Rwanda Tribunal, which has gone trough all sorts of administrative and managerial challenges and mishaps, is in position to make a greater contribution to international justice and to an international criminal system than its Yugoslav counterpart.

PICT Data obtained from the Project on International Courts and Tribunals (PICT)

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