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International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Coordinates: 3°22′04″S 36°41′47″E / 3.3677°S 36.6965°E / -3.3677; 36.6965
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International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda (ICTR)
Established8 November 1994
Dissolved31 December 2015
LocationArusha, Tanzania
Authorized byUnited Nations Security Council Resolution 955
Number of positions16 permanent
9 ad litem
CurrentlyVagn Joensen (Denmark)

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda[a] (ICTR; French: Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda; Kinyarwanda: Urukiko Mpanabyaha Mpuzamahanga Rwashyiriweho u Rwanda) was an international court established in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 955 in order to adjudicate people charged for the Rwandan genocide and other serious violations of international law in Rwanda, or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states, between 1 January and 31 December 1994.[1] The court eventually convicted 61 individuals and acquitted 14.[2]

In 1995, it became located in Arusha, Tanzania, under Resolution 977.[3] From 2006, Arusha also became the location of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. In 1998 the operation of the tribunal was expanded in Resolution 1165.[4] Through several resolutions, the Security Council called on the tribunal to complete its investigations by end of 2004, complete all trial activities by end of 2008, and complete all work in 2012.[5] The tribunal had jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of Common Article Three and Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions (which deals with internal conflicts).

The first trial, of Jean-Paul Akayesu, began in 1997. Jean Kambanda, interim Prime Minister, pleaded guilty. According to the ICTR's Completion Strategy, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1503, all first-instance cases were to have completed trial by the end of 2008 (this date was later extended to the end of 2009[6]) and all work was to be completed by 2010. As of 2009, the tribunal had finished 50 trials and convicted 29 accused persons, and another 11 trials were in progress and 14 individuals were awaiting trial in detention; but the prosecutor intended to transfer 5 to national jurisdiction for trial. 13 others were still at large, some suspected to be dead.[7] The United Nations Security Council called upon the tribunal to finish its work by 31 December 2014 to prepare for its closure and transfer of its responsibilities to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT or Mechanism) which had begun functioning for the ICTR branch on 1 July 2012.[8] The Tribunal was officially closed on 31 December 2016.

The tribunal's failure to prosecute war crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front or try RPF leader Paul Kagame was widely criticized, to the point of being characterized as "victor's justice".[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

The Rwandan genocide


The Rwandan genocide refers to the mass slaughter of more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu by government-directed gangs of Hutu extremist soldiers and police in Rwanda. The duration of the 1994 genocide is usually described as 100 days, beginning on April 6 and ending in mid-July.[16]

Photographs of genocide victims displayed at the Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali

The tension between the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi had developed over time but was particularly emphasized late in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century as a result of German and Belgian colonialism over Rwanda. The ethnic categorization of the two was an imposed and an arbitrary construct based more on physical characteristics than ethnic background. However, the social differences between the Hutu and the Tutsi have traditionally allowed the Tutsi, with a strong pastoralist tradition, to gain social, economic, and political ascendancy over the Hutu, who were primarily agriculturalists.[16] The distinction under colonial powers allowed Tutsis to establish ruling power until a Hutu revolution in 1959 abolished the Tutsi monarchy by 1961.

The hostility between the two groups continued, as "additional rounds of ethnic tension and violence flared periodically and led to mass killings of Tutsi in Rwanda, such as in 1963, 1967, and 1973".[16] The establishment of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and its invasion from Uganda furthered ethnic hatred. A ceasefire in these hostilities led to negotiations between the government and the RPF in 1992.[17]

On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi was shot down, killing everyone on board.[18] The Hutu held the RPF accountable and immediately began the genocide, targeted at both Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Most of the killing during the Rwandan genocide was carried out by the radical Hutu groups known as the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi.[19] Radio broadcasts also were an integral part of the genocide, which further fueled the genocide by encouraging Hutu civilians to kill their Tutsi neighbours, labeled as "cockroaches" in need of extermination.[16] Despite its colossal scale, particularly within such a short period of time, the genocide was carried out almost entirely by hand, usually with the utilization of machetes and clubs.[20] Various atrocities committed include the rape of thousands of Tutsi women, as well as the dismemberment and disfigurement of victims. Frequently the killers were people the victims knew personally—neighbors, workmates, former friends, sometimes even relatives through marriage.[20] At least 500,000 Tutsis were killed, and approximately 2 million refugees (mostly Hutus) left for refugee camps of neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and former Zaire.[19]

Establishment of the ICTR


The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda is regarded as a major failure.[21] The international response to the Rwandan genocide was poor. For weeks, the major power nations denied that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda. The United States refused to call the incident genocide because using the term would make an obligation for the United States to send troops, which it was reluctant to do after several of its soldiers were killed during a humanitarian mission in Somalia the previous year.[22][23][24] Finally in July 1994, after the genocide was over, the UN Security Council called for an investigation of the events, and acted to establish an international criminal tribunal to prosecute those individuals most responsible for the genocide. Adopting Resolution 955, the Security Council created the ICTR on 8 November 1994 and the ICTR would also deal with other crimes against international humanitarian law committed on the territory of Rwanda and neighboring states between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.[25]

ICTR structure

An ICTR building in Kigali, Rwanda.

The tribunal consisted of 16 judges in four "chambers" – three to hear trials, and one to hear appeals. In addition, there were 9 ad litem judges, making 25 in all. All 9 ad litem judges were assigned to Chambers II and III. There was an additional pool of 9 further ad literim judges who would be called on in the case of a judge being absent.

The column denoted by # indicates the order of precedence.

Trial Chamber I

# Judge Country Status
19. Mparany Rajohnson  Madagascar Member (ad litem judge)

Trial Chamber II

# Judge Country Status
4. William Sekule  Tanzania Presiding judge
14. Solomy Balungi Bossa  Uganda Member (ad litem judge)
15. Lee Gacugia Muthoga  Kenya Member (ad litem judge)
16. Seon Ki Park  South Korea Member (ad litem judge)

Trial Chamber III

# Judge Country Status
1. Vagn Joensen  Denmark President ICTR, presiding judge
2. Florence Rita Arrey  Cameroon Vice-president ICTR, member
17. Gberdao Gustave Kam  Burkina Faso Member (ad litem judge)
13. Bakhtiyar R.Tuzmukhamedov  Russia Member
18. Robert Fremr  Czech Republic Member

Appeals Chamber

# Judge Country Status
3. Theodor Meron  United States Presiding judge
5. Patrick Robinson  Jamaica Member
7. Fausto Pocar  Italy Member
8. Liu Daqun  China Member
6. Mehmet Güney  Turkey Member
11. Carmel Agius  Malta Member
9. Arlette Ramaroson  Madagascar Member
10. Andrésia Vaz  Senegal Member
12. Khalida Rashid Khan  Pakistan Member

Office of the Prosecutor

Offices of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, 2003.

The Office of the Prosecutor was divided into various units at the height of its activity, including the Investigations Division and the Prosecution Division:[26]

  • The Prosecution Division was responsible for prosecuting all cases before the Tribunal. Headed by a Chief of Prosecutions.
  • The Investigations Division was responsible for collecting evidence implicating individuals in crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. Headed by a Chief of Investigations.



The Registry


The Registry was responsible for the overall administration and management of the ICTR. It also performed other legal functions assigned to it by the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and was the Tribunal's channel of communication.

The Registry was headed by the Registrar, who was the Representative of the UN Secretary-General. Bongani Christopher Majola of South Africa was Registrar. after January 2013.

The Case of Jean-Paul Akayesu


After an intense and precisely targeted campaign of a number of international non-governmental organizations, which aimed at raising awareness of gendered violence at the ICTR,[29] the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu established the legal precedent that genocidal rape falls within the act of genocide. "...the [Trial] Chamber finds that in most cases, the rapes of Tutsi women in Taba, were accompanied with the intent to kill those women. ... In this respect, it appears clearly to the chamber that the acts of rape and sexual violence, as other acts of serious bodily and mental harm committed against the Tutsi, reflected the determination to make Tutsi women suffer and to mutilate them even before killing them, the intent being to destroy the Tutsi group while inflicting acute suffering on its members in the process."[30] Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay said in a statement after the verdict: "From time immemorial, rape has been regarded as spoils of war. Now it will be considered a war crime. We want to send out a strong message that rape is no longer a trophy of war."[31]

Media Case


The trial against "hate media" began on 23 October 2000. It was charged with the prosecution of the media which encouraged the genocide of 1994.[32]

On 19 August 2003, at the tribunal in Arusha, life sentences were requested for Ferdinand Nahimana, and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, persons in charge for the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, as well as Hassan Ngeze, director and editor of the Kangura newspaper. They were charged with genocide, incitement to genocide, and crimes against humanity, before and during the period of the genocides of 1994. On 3 December 2003, the court found all three defendants guilty and sentenced Nahimana and Ngeze to life imprisonment and Barayagwiza to imprisonment for 35 years. On 28 November 2007, the Appeals Chamber partially allowed appeals against conviction from all three men, reducing their sentences to 30 years' imprisonment for Nahimana, 32 years' imprisonment for Barayagwiza and 35 years' imprisonment for Ngeze.[33][34]


French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière was also pursuing a case against the current President, Paul Kagame, and other members of his administration, for the assassination of his predecessor. This case was under the regular jurisdiction of the French courts because French citizens were also killed in the plane crash. The majority of genocide cases were handled by the so-called gacaca courts, a modernized customary dispute resolution mechanism.[35]



The ICTR indicted a total of 96 individuals. The proceedings against one individual are suspended before the IRMCT. The ICTR (or the IRMCT as its successor) convicted 61 individuals: 25 of whom are currently serving sentences, 22 of whom have completed their sentences, and 14 of whom died while serving their sentences. The Tribunal acquitted 14 individuals and transferred the cases against 10 individuals to national jurisdictions. Proceedings against nine individuals ended before a final judgment was rendered: two of whom had their charges dismissed by the Tribunal, two of whom had their charges withdrawn by the Prosecutor, and five of whom died.

See also



  1. ^ Full name: International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994


  1. ^ United Nations Security Council Resolution 955. S/RES/955(1994) 8 November 1994.
  2. ^ International Justice Resource Center (7 February 2010). "ICTR". Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  3. ^ United Nations Security Council Resolution 977. S/RES/977(1995) 22 February 1995.
  4. ^ United Nations Security Council Resolution 1165. S/RES/1165(1998) 30 April 1998.
  5. ^ United Nations Security Council Resolution 1824. S/RES/1824(2008) page 1. 18 July 2008.
  6. ^ "Rwanda genocide court says mandate extended to 2009". Reuters. July 29, 2008 – via uk.reuters.com.
  7. ^ "ICTR - Status of Cases". Archived from the original on 2009-07-21. Retrieved 2010-04-13.
  8. ^ "ICTR Expected to close down in 2015 | United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda". unictr.irmct.org.
  9. ^ Peskin, Victor (2005). "Beyond Victor's Justice? The Challenge of Prosecuting the Winners at the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda". Journal of Human Rights. 4 (2): 213–231. doi:10.1080/14754830590952152. S2CID 143431169.
  10. ^ Keith, Kirsten MF (2009). "Justice at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: Are Criticisms Just". Law in Context: A Socio-Legal Journal. 27: 78.
  11. ^ Haskell, Leslie; Waldorf, Lars (2011). "The Impunity Gap of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: Causes and Consequences". Hastings International and Comparative Law Review. 34 (1): 49. ISSN 0149-9246.
  12. ^ Humphrey, Michael (2003). "International intervention, justice and national reconciliation: the role of the ICTY and ICTR in Bosnia and Rwanda". Journal of Human Rights. 2 (4): 495–505. doi:10.1080/1475483032000137084.
  13. ^ Schabas, William A. (2010). "Victor's Justice: Selecting Situations at the International Criminal Court". John Marshall Law Review. 43: 535.
  14. ^ Reydams, Luc (1 January 2013). "Let's Be Friends: The United States, Post-Genocide Rwanda, and Victor's Justice in Arusha" (PDF). doi:10.2139/ssrn.2197823. SSRN 2197823. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ Morrill, Hanna (2011). "Challenging Impunity - The Failure of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to Prosecute Paul Kagame". Brooklyn Journal of International Law. 37: 683.
  16. ^ a b c d "Rwanda Genocide of 1994". Encyclopedia Britannica. 5 August 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  17. ^ "The Rwandan Genocide". History. 2009. Archived from the original on 2017-07-02. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Rwanda Genocide: 100 days of slaughter". BBC News. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  19. ^ a b "Rwandan Genocide". World Without Genocide. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  20. ^ a b "1994: Rwanda"". Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  21. ^ "Rwanda/UN: Acknowledging Failure", AfricaFocus Bulletin (compiling several individual reports), March 31, 2004
  22. ^ "Ambush in Mogadishu: Transcript". PBS. Retrieved 27 October 2009.
  23. ^ Chozick, Amy (4 September 2012). "In Africa, Bill Clinton Toils for a Charitable Legacy". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  24. ^ Lynch, Colum (5 April 2015). "Exclusive: Rwanda Revisited". foreignpolicy.com. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  25. ^ ""International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR)", PiCT(Project on International Courts and Tribunals) 24 September 2013". Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  26. ^ "Office of the Prosecutor". International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
  27. ^ Guichaoua, André (2015). From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990–1994. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 297. ISBN 9780299298203.
  28. ^ Guichaoua, André (2015). From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990–1994. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 299. ISBN 9780299298203.
  29. ^ Klaus Bachmann, Thomas Sparrow-Botero, Peter Lambertz: When justice meets politics. Independence and Autonomy of ad hoc international criminal tribunals, Peter Lang Int 2013
  30. ^ The Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu (Trial Judgement), ICTR-96-4-T, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), 2 September 1998, p. 166 Archived 2012-10-12 at the Wayback Machine ¶.733. Available at: unhcr.org (accessed 13 April 2010)
  31. ^ Quoted in citation for honorary doctorate, Rhodes University, April 2005 accessed at "Rhodes - Rhodes University". Archived from the original on 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2008-02-27. March 23, 2007
  32. ^ Claudia Hofmann (2008). Learning in Modern International Society On the Cognitive Problem: Solving Abilities of Political Actors. Springer Netherlands. p. 87. ISBN 9783531907895.
  33. ^ Grunfeld, Fred; Anke Huijboom (2007). The Failure to Prevent Genocide in Rwanda: The Role of Bystanders. Brill. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-9004157811.
  34. ^ Jones, Adam (2010). "Genocide and Mass Violence". In Laura J. Shepherd (ed.). Gender Matters in Global Politics. Routledge. pp. 127–147. ISBN 978-0-203-86494-4.
  35. ^ Ingelaere, B. 2016. Inside Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts: Searching Justice after Genocide. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press (ISBN 978-0-299-30970-1).

Further reading


3°22′04″S 36°41′47″E / 3.3677°S 36.6965°E / -3.3677; 36.6965