International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Rwanda and the ICTR

Rwandan senate report slams genocide tribunal

The Rwandan senate has issued a report criticizing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It claims that the tribunal was inefficient and incompetent. This stems from a long history of Rwandan refusal to cooperate with the court, beginning with its initial vote against the tribunal’s mandate. Then, as now, the Rwandan government objected to the tribunal’s placement in Tanzania rather than locally.

The Rwandan government’s objections are not the only criticisms of the ICTR. It experienced issues of authority, as its temporal mandate was limited to the year 1994 and it could not investigate crimes before or after this period despite the long-term nature of the conflict. It has also confronted issues with state cooperation and victor’s justice. The Tutsi rebel group, the RPF, controlled Rwanda after the conflict and thus controlled Rwandan negotiations in the creation of the tribunal. They succeeded in setting the tribunal’s temporal mandate to end in July 1994, so that acts perpetrated by Tutsis after July would not be subject to ICTR jurisdiction. This serves as an example of both the ability of the victors in a conflict to achieve impunity and the ability of a state to undermine a tribunal’s effectiveness when cooperation is not in its interest.

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One response to “Rwanda and the ICTR

  1. masonnathaniel March 17, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    A report condemning the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) from the Rwandan Senate in 2014 is interesting given that basically all of the criminal trial proceedings at the ICTR, as well as other forms of justice in Rwanda following the genocide such as the Gacaca court system, have concluded. I agree it is important to underscore the irony of Rwanda’s continued defamation of the ICTR. Rwanda has stated over and over again how the distant location of the court coupled with its incompetence in handling witnesses showcases its overall ineffectiveness, especially in regard to fostering reconciliation among the Rwandan people. The report fails to mention how Rwanda’s reluctance to cooperate and demand for a limited temporal scope of the court affected its ability to be effective in holding those who were accountable on both sides of the conflict, including rebel forces who committed revenge killings after the RPF gained control of the government. In addition, it would be interesting to do a comparison study between the state-enforced Gacaca courts and the ICTR to see which mechanism was more beneficial in delivering transitional justice to Rwanda. In truth, neither of the two courts were very successful in fostering reconciliation, and each approached a different types of justice. The Gacaca courts were more interested in expanding accountability for the genocide to all Rwandans who had taken part in the violence, and attempted to create proportional responses for crimes of varying severity. On the other hand, the ICTR was more interested in expanding accountability to elite perpetrators who the international community deemed most responsible in the genocide, as well as perpetrators who normally would not be considered as culpable of crimes against humanity or genocide. In particular, the successful conviction of radio broadcasters for crimes relating to genocide and crimes against humanity were especially significant for the ICTR.

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