International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: ICTR

Why not the Winners too?

History is written by the victors. The winners decide the rules, and the punishments to dole out to those who break those rules. The Nuremburg and Tokyo trials after WWII proved that. The defeated Germany and her allies were put on trial by the victorious world powers, but these winners had the express design to punish the losers in this war. That is how it has always been; the winners punish the defeated for their crime, but what about the crimes of the victors? The crimes of the victors are often ignored in favor of publicizing the crimes of the losers, but shouldn’t all crimes in a conflict be persecuted? Shouldn’t the nations that preach that impunity cannot exist, be held responsible for the crimes that they committed? It is this in mind that the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) and the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) were created. They were made in the image of the Nuremburg and Tokyo Trials, but with a new purpose of prosecuting both the winning and losing sides in the conflict. These tribunals are trying to make sure that no matter what side you are on, that committing war crime will never go unpunished.

What is the significance of the Akayesu case?

AKAYESU TRIALThe Akayesu case was one of the ICTR’s first significant trials and convictions.

Drawing on the Cruvellier chapters and whatever else you can dig up, what is the significance of this case for the tribunal, transitional justice for Rwanda, and international justice more generally?

The Gacaca court system in Rwanda

As we have discussed in class, three different court systems have been used to prosecute the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide: the ICTR, the national court system, and the local-level Gacaca court system. These systems have, on the aggregate, been quite successful in terms of the sheer number of cases they have tried since the genocide; however, there are still many concerns about the legitimacy and biases of the Gacaca courts, ultimately resulting in what the BBC terms, ‘controversial justice’ (BBC).

Immediately following the genocide in 1994, Rwanda’s legal system was left largely in disarray. In order to prosecute the large volume of genocidaires, it became clear that employing various court systems would be necessary. As a result, the Gacaca courts transitioned from settling only small local disputes and adapted to “a more conventional model of punitive justice,” which sought to “reveal the truth about the genocide” (HRW). In 2005, these courts began prosecuting the “thousands of accused still awaiting trial in the national court system,” to further their goals of achieving “justice and reconciliation at the grassroots level” (UN).

By 2012, the system of 12,000 community-based courts had tried over 1.2 million perpetrators throughout Rwanda (UN & BBC). According to statistics, approximately 65% of those tried were found guilty, and were subsequently sentenced. In these local courts though, it was possible to significantly reduce your sentence if you showed signs of remorse, publically apologized, and asked for forgiveness from your community (UN). Consequently, some called into the question the legitimacy of the courts— fearing that convicted genocidaires could deliver falsely “sincere” apologies in order to “return home without further penalty” (HRW & UN).

As the Human Rights Watch asserted, the expectation that the Gacaca courts would achieve “national-level reconciliation” in these few years was pretty far-fetched (HRW). In fact, a multitude of other factors caused people to question the legitimacy of these trials, including corruption, personal ties, and intimidation (HWR). Although the BBC reported that “many people in Rwanda” have credited the system for “help[ing] to mend the wounds of the past,” the Gacaca’s ability to promote justice and reconciliation has undoubtedly been challenged by these underlying problems (BBC & HRW). For these reasons— as well as the many reasons we have discussed in class— it is and will remain to be very difficult to assess the success of these courts for many years to come.

Prosecuting Crimes of Sexual Violence – Best Practices Manual

In relation to prosecuting mass crimes against humanity, there is one type of crime that is very often under-prosecuted and not discussed sufficiently – crimes of sexual violence. Although crimes of sexual violence occur everywhere in peace and wartime, there is usually evidence of them occurring on a mass level during times of conflict and civil strife. For example, in South Africa, there were many indications of crimes of sexual violence being committed by all parties; however, theses crimes hardly came up during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

Crimes of sexual violence are underreported for a number of reasons. Victims are often scared to come forward for fear of further retribution, there can be a lack of physical evidence (turning into ‘he said she said’) and in many cultures there is a certain shame attached to it that negatively impacts the perception of the family in the community. This makes persecuting crimes of sexual violence on an international court and tribunal level especially difficult. 

Interestingly, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda published a manual on Best Practices for the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Violence Crimes in Post-Conflict Regionswhich discusses lessons learned from the Office of the Prosecutor. This manual utilizes the 20+ years of experience the ICTR has in prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in the Rwandan genocide. Viviance Dittrich, guest wrote an article for the blog, Justice in Conflict and noted:

By sharing its experience and lessons learnt, the ICTR endeavours to engage partners in the Great Lakes region, to enhance the capacity of national authorities and regional stakeholders in Africa and to fight impunity.

This effort by the ICTR seems like an excellent way to further the discussion on the prosecution of crimes of sexual violence and seeing as it was published January of this year, hopefully will remain a significant part of the discussion surrounding crimes of sexual violence. Many of these Best Practices would also be applicable on a national level, making it even more important that this report be given the attention it deserves. 


“Kagame pushes his luck”

On Wednesday South Africa warned Rwanda that it would not “tolerate ‘criminal’ attacks on its soil against Rwandan exiles that have drawn international criticism of President Paul Kagame’s government.” This warning comes on the heels of an attack on the Johannesburg home of former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, an exiled critic of the Kagame regime. Critics of the regime claim that President Kagame has taken advantage of Western guilt over the genocide to increase persecution of opponents, especially as the 20th anniversary of the genocide approaches. President Kagame has also faced criticism from the international community after a U.N. report showed that his government supported an insurgency in eastern Congo last year. The U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region has expressed concern over the South Africa-Rwanda situation, as they are both important influences in the region.

Recently Rwanda has criticized the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for ineffective and incompetent handling of the 1994 genocide trials, but I wonder if possibly the greatest example of the ICTR’s mistakes is the very fact that Paul Kagame is president? With the ICC and international tribunals there is a tendency for victor’s justice, in part because often the side which ‘rebels’ did suffer statistically more atrocities, but also because the tribunals need state cooperation in order to function. President Kagame led the Tutsi rebel movement that ended the 1994 genocide, and in the process presided over an army that did carry out retribution killings. Though the situation in Kenya does prove that even international indictments don’t keep war criminals out of office, Paul Kagame was never even indicted. The Rwandan government’s involvement in the attack detailed above is still unsubstantiated, but President Kagame has publicly said that “’traitors’ should expect consequences.” With the increasing violence in the Central African Republic, it is important for Rwanda and South Africa to act as stabilizing forces, but as an editorial in a South African newspaper said, it remains to be seen if Kagame will continue to “push his luck,” and I suspect he will.


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.

Impunity for Crimes of Sexual Violence

Throughout this course, there have been many discussions about the different systems of justice and their effectiveness in establishing peace and reconciliation in post-conflict societies: the ICC, local judiciaries, hybrid courts, and even truth commissions. However, in many case studies, one of the main criticisms of these institutions is that they fully acknowledge crimes of sexual violence in their respective justice, peace and/or reconciliation proceedings.

In the case of the ICC, sexual violence is considered a crime against humanity based upon Article VII of the Rome Statute. On March 7, the ICC convicted Germain Katanga to four counts of war crimes and one crime against humanity for his part in killing more than 200 people in a province of north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.However, Katanga has been cleared of charges for sexual violence and the use of child soldiers. The initial ICC investigations found that women who survived the 2003 massacre had been raped or kept as sex slaves but they did not have sufficient evidence to convict Katanga of carrying out these crimes. While it is clear that the ICC investigates crimes of sexual violence, they still have yet to convict any criminals of such crimes. It is possible that Katanga’s case mirrors that of Thomas Lubanga, who was only convicted of conscription of child soldiers. Despite evidence suggesting involvement in other atrocities, the ICC decided to move forward with their prosecution based on evidence that was already available to them. Even if this is true for Katanga’s case, however, should the ICC be criticized for not taking the additional time to collect further evidence that would ensure Katanga was held accountable for crimes of sexual violence?

In addition to analyzing the ICC, it is also important to discuss how sexual violence has been acknowledged domestically, particularly in Rwanda’s Gacaca courts. The HRW’s report on the ‘Barriers to Justice for Sexual Crimes’ states that 2001 Gacaca law discouraged women from testifying about their experience of sexual violence due to the social and procedural obstacles they faced in reporting the crime, the public nature of the Gacaca process, and the lack of security and confidentiality protections for witnesses. This causes additional barriers for investigators considering the hesitation of witnesses to report these crimes and difficulties in providing sufficient evidence to ‘prove’ that a victim was subject to sexual violence when there is an absence of witnesses to ‘validate’ the victim’s testimony. Furthermore, there are inconsistent verdicts of trials involving sexual violence due to lack of definition of rape or sexual torture under Rwandan laws. Genocide judgments applied the terms “rape” and “sexual torture” inconsistently, and none of the post-1994 judgments invoke a definition of rape or defilement.

What is particularly surprising about the lack of convictions for sexual crimes in Gacaca courts is the fact that the ICTR’s judgement in Prosecutor v. Akayesu held Jean-Paul Akayesu accountable for prohibiting rape as a part of a systematic attack against a civilian population, essentially establishing that sexual violence can be punishable as a crime against humanity. These differences are likely based on the lack of capacity for Gacaca courts, in addition to the stigmatization of rape culture in Rwanda and the public nature of the Gacaca process. However, in light of the Rwandan Senate’s report on the ICTR stating that it “did not include Rwandan prosecutors and judges despite having the requisite qualifications”, one must also question the stigma of sexual violence in Rwandan culture in comparison to justice institutions that are perhaps forcing particular principles of justice to initiate change.

While this is only one case study, it is important to note that other domestic proceedings have largely ignored crimes of sexual violence including South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Historical Clarification Commission of Guatemala. There is no doubt that obstacles to reporting, investigating, and proving crimes of sexual violence in courts are a result of the lack of capacity and resources of courts and commissions to thoroughly address such cases (especially considering the gravity and breadth of atrocities that have occurred). However, it is evident that there are sociocultural barriers that are perpetuating the impunity of sexual violence as a crime against humanity. If such impunity continues in these conflicts in both domestic and international peace/justice institutions, to what extent is reconciliation and justice actually achieved for victims?

Rwandan Senate and the ICTR

The day before the recent conviction of DRC warlord Katanga, another piece of news affecting international justice system. The Rwandan senate released a report heavily critical of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, stating that “the body had been inefficient and incompetent.

What does the report say?

1. A major criticism is the length of time the ICTR took. The commission revealed that over the lifetime of the ICTR there was a period of 14 months in which no cases were tried. The result si the Senate fears many changed their testimonies, or simply died in the interim, both of which clearly hinder justice

2. Rwanda itself voted against the formation of the ICTR because a) the Court operated not in Rwanda, b) the ICTR “did not include Rwandan prosecutors and judges despite having the requisite qualifications” (Senator Bizman, chairman of foreign affairs) and c) Cases between 1990 and 1994 were not tried in the court

3. The current lack of permanent representation on the court (instead there is a ‘special representative’) means Rwandan officials “get to know about decisions after a long time” (Bizman)


The two most severe criticisms relate to the implications of the legitimacy of the ICTR. First and foremost, how legitimate can we say this form of justice is, when little Rwandan presence is involved in prosecutions, despite their wish to be included? It is difficult to see this as anything but an external imposition of justice, when the Rwandans themselves have not been included.

Furthermore, the slow nature of this type of justice, as well as the disputed cases, especially Juvenal Jaerijeri, the mayor of Mukngo, who has requested a retrial, means there is a disconnect between the expectations from Rwandans and court itself. This is further complicated by the comparatively speedy nature of the Gacaca courts. 

This is a point worth bearing in mind though. Gacaca were established by the govenrment, and as such its so-called ‘legitimacy’ derives from the fact that it is traditional. In criticizing the ICTR in such a fashion, and for such reasons, we can also see implicit praise of Gacaca, which obviously includes Rwandans and was wrapped up faster than the ICTR (and convicted more people). Thus, in defense of the ICTR, such a report clearly has political gains for the current government.

Thus it is worth being a little sceptical of such a report. Clearly the ICTR has mistakes, and certainly the lack of Rwandan presence can be an issue. But, take for instance one claim of the report, that crimes between ’90 and ’94 should be tried. In order for impartiality to truly be valid, the crimes of the RPF over the same period, and post genocide, should also be punished. Such crimes were significant, such as the potential deaths of up to 200,000 Hutus in the 1st Congo War. Would, then, the RPF really want the scope of the ICTR to be extended? Or is part of this a play for political gains for domestic policies like RPF, and an overt critique of the international justice system?


U.N. Court, on Appeal, Acquits 2 Rwandans in 1994 Genocide

A little over a week ago the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) acquitted two Rwandans indicted for their roles in the 1994 genocide. It has been twenty years since the genocide, but efforts to find and punish those responsible for the atrocities continue. Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former chief of staff of the Rwandan paramilitary police, and François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, the former commander of a military reconnaissance battalion were the two acquitted. Ndindiliyimana was one of the highest ranking officials indicted by the tribunal, and was convicted of genocide. But because of the length of time between when he was arrested, his conviction, and his appeal he was freed after time served. I understand that the ICTR is underfunded and that it is trying to figure out protocol etc., but a man who was convicted of genocide should not be released for time served. He spent eleven years in the middle of the process, but because he spent it awaiting a decision and not in prison as a convicted criminal it undermines the court’s decision. This case should be a wake up call for the international community that these tribunals need to be funded better in order for them to work more effectively. I wonder if the fact that they will be forced to wait years and waste a large amount of money dis-incentivize perpetrators of atrocities from turning themselves in?



Visualizing the Impact of International Tribunals

Take a look at this visually impressive report on the impact of international tribunals, authored by Daniel McLaughlin and published by the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice).

tribunals map

It graphically presents data on the atrocities, tribunals and cases, which gives you a sense of both their relative scope and impact. The author explains that

“despite the tribunals’ grasp on the popular imagination, they are the subject of significant misconceptions and confusion. Much of the media coverage dedicated to their work remains superficial, at best, and largely muddle over key distinctions between various tribunals, past and present.”

The report also provides a comparative cost analysis with other major events, like the Olympics or  US Presidential election. Do the results surprise you?

intl courts costs

How does this data aid in our evaluation of international tribunals? Based on this and assigned readings in class, how should we evaluate the legitimacy and effectiveness of international tribunals?

“Think Again: International Courts”

I recently came across an extremely pessimistic article about international justice (the caption reads: “It’s time to abandon the false hope of international justice”). It’s from a few years ago, but I felt like it fit in nicely with what we have been discussing through the course thus far. It specifically hits on the ICTY and ICTR. The author claims that neither Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians, nor Rwandans through the tribunals aided in the reconciliation process. Less than 36% of Rwandans thought it did promote reconciliation in 2002. She also points out that the justice process is long and expensive. Milosevic’s trial took years, prolonging the hatred in the hearts of many Serbs, and the ICTR took “10 years to complete the same number of trials that Nuremberg conducted in less than a year.”

The author also lacks faith in the truth-telling process, citing Spain and Mozambique as having been successfully reconciled by taking a “don’t look back” approach to resolving their issues. She then goes on to refute the claim that “Giving Amnesty to War Criminals Encourages Impunity.” If we look at South Africa and Mozambique, she says, we will find that while both implemented amnesties, the rule of law actually improved because the leadership was focused less on prosecuting and more on rebuilding. Politics may also have a greater effect on the rule of law than justice, she suggests. Kagame’s authoritarianism in Rwanda undermined the rule of law even though his government was prosecuting many convicted of war crimes.

Lastly, she claims that the world does not need the ICC. “We can predict that the ICC will be no more effective than the international courts for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in improving the lives of war-zone residents who are its primary stakeholders. That is, not very effective at all.”

She lacks solid empirical evidence in some areas and some of her fact-finding seems inadequate. (I am never a fan of researchers quoting some people they met on the ground and then extrapolating their answers as if they were representative of the entire population.) However, I feel like it’s a good measure to test what we’ve learned so far. If you support international justice, it may be worth going through her arguments and seeing if what we have read so far allows you to refute any, if not all, of her claims.

Can (Well-Meaning) Individuals Impede Peace and Justice?

As we saw in the ICC documentary shown in class as well as our various reading assignments related to the court, former chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo certainly (even if inadvertently) had a polarizing effect on the international community’s response to ICC actions in pursuit of justice. The fact that Moreno-Ocampo so significantly colored nations’ perceptions of the ICC brings up a bigger question: To what extent can an individual influence the attainment of justice?

Making this question more pressing is the news of Carla Del Ponte’s involvement with the UN’s Independent International Commission on Inquiry, currently charged with investigating alleged human rights violations in Syria. Del Ponte, the “feisty” (to say the least) former chief prosecutor of the ICTY and ICTR has taken up the cause of ensuring that justice is served to those responsible for the Syrian atrocities. Keeping in mind the fact that her behavior is credited with the decision to split the ICTY/ICTR chief prosecutor’s responsibility between the two courts, I wonder what impact her stubborn disposition (which she claims to be quite proud of) and abrasive means of interacting with state leaders will have on the situation unfolding in Syria.

While the answer to my aforementioned question may seem obvious—one person does have the potential to jeopardize justice (this is, of course, a debatable claim though)—it is complicated by the potential tension between peace and justice. If Del Ponte takes a hard line advocating for justice for Assad (and, in light of recent news, maybe even rebel leaders as well) in the form of criminal trial proceedings, will that impede an end to the conflict? Furthermore, when it comes to polarizing—albeit well-meaning—individuals such as Moreno-Ocampo and Del Ponte, how do we reconcile their personal strategies (as prominent leaders in the field of transitional justice) for seeking justice with the broader strategies for achieving peace and justice on the macro-level?

Rwanda and UN Security Council

Last week, it has been reported that Rwanda will hold one of the five non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. In his interview for NPR with the Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, one of the things brought up by host Michael Martin is that a “firm hand” is necessary in government to stave off ethnic conflict. Mushikiwabo’s response is that yes, in fact, it is and that President Kagame has been one of the better leaders to help Rwanda gain its current success. I find this to be somewhat of a conflict of interest, especially when viewed side by side with Victor Peskin’s account of victor’s justice in the case of the ICTR. Fearing indictments of the officials of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s government banned travel for the witnesses asked to testify in the hearings. According to Peskin, “The government’s decision to bar witness travel was one of the most damaging acts of noncompliance in the history of both ad hoc tribunals” (225, Peskin). Rwanda’s actions received little criticism and the UN Security Council was slow to respond to the official appeal of the government’s actions.

How is it, that a country so set on working against the UN-sanctioned Tribunal meant to help fix the terrible wrongs that occurred, is welcome with open arms into the UN Security Council?

Possible Presidential Debate Hot Topic: “Rewards for Justice” at the ICC?

As we head into our course unit on the International Criminal Court—and approach Monday’s foreign policy-focused presidential debate—it is interesting to examine the institution’s current standing with the United States, perhaps the most notable nonsignatory of the Rome Statute. According to a piece of news referenced in a recent post on Justice in Conflict (a blog maintained by a current PhD student in International Relations at the London School of Economics), the US appears to be inching towards a closer relationship with the ICC. After expanding the reach of its Rewards for Justice program (which offers significant monetary compensation to those who provide information leading to the arrest and/or prosecution of suspected terrorists) to cover those individuals indicted by the ICTY and ICTR, the US may take its involvement in the realm of international justice one step further by including ICC indictees on its list of those notorious enough to warrant coverage by Rewards for Justice.

This (potential) policy decision by the United States comes at a time of domestic political flux, considering the contentiousness of the upcoming presidential election. While the topics sure to dominate Monday’s debate will be all things Afghanistan and Libya, a better gauge of each candidate’s foreign policy outlook may very well be where they stand on the US’s role in facilitating international justice. As Justice in Conflict’s Mark Kersten points out, the relationship between the United States, though improving, has been rocky (to say the least) from the start; in today’s increasingly globalized world, though, the US cannot afford (in my opinion) to formally (at least on paper) disengage from transitional justice efforts. How each candidate would aim to further improve (or completely dismantle) US relations with the ICC—and US involvement in international justice efforts in any arena—could be more telling of the core of their foreign policy views than their ability to spew out death toll statistics.

Genocide suspect Uwinkindi sent for trial in Rwanda from ICTR

The ICTR has for the first time sent a suspect back to Rwanda for trial.

The spokesperson for the Rwandan prosecutor’s office said, “It leaves us with a great feeling of satisfaction. We have shown the world that justice in our country is credible and independent. We thank the ICTR for putting their trust in the Rwandan justice system. Rwandans are pleased to have the chance to see him tried where the crimes were committed.”

Uwinkindiis accused of planning and coordinating the genocide and is definitely an elite perpetrator. It seems strange to me that the ICTR would yield authority to the Rwandan judicial system for such a high level perpetrator.

Apparently, the transfer of cases to national jurisdictions is part of the ICTR’s plan to wind up lower court cases by June and appeals by 2014.

What do you think about this?

Map “Mr. Z” demands $1 million compensation from ICTR

The International Justice Tribune is reporting on Protais Zigiranyirazo, the brother in law to the former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, who is filing for compensation based on his pretrial detention, initial judgment, and for  being considered a genocidaire despite his acquittal. 

We talked in class a bit yesterday about compensation for victims and what that looks like, but I wonder what the record of this kind of thing is? 

“Truth on Trial:” An ICTR Trial of a Rwandan Priest

This new documentary by Al Jazeera provides a fascinating and rare inside look into an ICTR trial – that of a Rwandan priest accused of direct and indirect responsibility for mass killings in his area of Nyanza. As the summary explains, the footage highlights the difficulty of ascertaining the truth even in a trial for a high profile accused. It also subtly shows the political and societal pressures in post-genocide Rwanda not to testify against accused genocide perpetrators.

If you have the time to watch it I would encourage any comments and questions.

ICTR: Survivors Seek Audience on “Grossly Inadequate Sentences”

Rwandan Survivor’s groups are speaking out against sentences they believe to be inadequate. The sentences concern the former army chief of staff Augustin Bizimungu, the former head of the Gendarmerie Augustin Ndiindiliyimana, former Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, and the Reconnaissance Battalion squad commander Innocent Sagahutu. Those opposed to the sentence wrote to the Appeals Chamber, “The sentences imposed by the Trial Chamber do not further the primary sentencing goals of deterrence and retribution, tolerate impunity among those responsible for committing the gravest crimes, and demean the dignity of victims and survivors.”

This issue really speaks to the difficulty tribunals face. They want to remain legitimate and not appear as show trials, but it can be difficult to balance the search for justice for victims and court proceedings. The question of how courts can remedy this difficult line is a huge one. The stakes are high for nations seeking justice and deterrence when sentences are met with feelings of unfairness.

via Hirondelle News Agency

Reconciliation in Rwanda – Gacaca courts & the ICTR

I watched part of a documentary called “Gacaca Justice”. If anyone is interested, here is the link to the 15 minute (kind of long…) clip:

The film pays particular attention to the Gacaca courts that have been set up across the country to serve as a form of community justice and provide healing and closure to victims. In light of our class today about the Rwandan genocide and the ICTR, I can’t help but feel that the Gacaca court system serves as a better form of transitional justice in providing healing at both local and statewide levels than the efforts of the ICTR. In a country like Rwanda where a majority of the population lives in small rural communities, the trials of the ICTR do not seem accessible to the population. The Gacaca courts provide localized justice in individual villages and towns by punishing the average, lower-level perpetrators who made up the vast majority of perpetrators during the genocide.

This is not to say the ICTR hasn’t been invaluable in convicting the elite perpetrators and masterminds of the genocide, but ultimately as we discussed in class a majority of Rwandans feel that they have no connection to these elite perpetrators or their trials that occur in another country. This idea was reinforced for me when a woman in the documentary said “Those who became our killers were our friends and neighbors”. Although it may sound cynical, I feel that although Rwanda requested the ICTR, it is a tribunal that is more important for the guilty consciences of the international community who at first largely ignored the genocide than it is for the Rwandans who suffered through it.

I would be interested in hearing other people’s opinions on this subject, whether people agree or if they think the ICTR is more important than I’ve made it out to be.

Do No Harm

A scholar of post-genocidal studies once told me of a conference she attended entitled “Do No Harm”. The message of the conference centered around the idea that as foreigners investigating or completing scholarly work on a post-conflict setting, the lasting effect of our work, in the end,  should improve the conditions of a post-conflict setting and the last thing they should do is deteriorate conditions in a post-conflict setting. We as, students, teachers, and authors sometimes have tendency, in order for our work to gain notoriety, explore controversial topics and often exploit one wrong doing or shortcoming by institutions of transitional justice and then offer no suggestion to our criticism. For me, Victor Peskin’s work is reflective of this short coming.

Peskin is not entirely wrong in his criticism of the ICTY and ICTR’s shortcoming to adequately prosecute both sides of the conflict. In Rwanda revenge killings by Tutsi’s certainly did take place, but they also certainly did not constitute genocide. If one wishes to view what Genocide in Rwanda looked like, you do not need to go further than viewing the preserved corpses of tutsi infants with machete marks across their skulls located at the Murambi memorial. What Peskin’s article insinuates is Double Genocide, a view that Hutus and Tutsis were equally responsible for the crimes committed in 1994, this view, while patently untrue, serves only to worsen the current state of relative peace of Rwanda and heighten ethnic divide in the country. Peskin’s work brings up important points of discussion but he does so in a manner that is more detrimental than beneficial to Rwanda.

Before submitting his work for publication Peskin should have asked himself one question, Who am I writing for? …For Victor Peskin?, or for Rwanda?

Evaluating International Tribunals

Andrew’s post (below) raises the general question, addressed by both the Peskin and Barria and Roper articles, about how we should evaluate the legitimacy and effectiveness of international tribunals.  Peskin is critical of both the ICTY and ICTR for failing to achieve balanced prosecutions of individuals from warring parties on both sides, whereas Barria and Roper use the tangible measures of the extent to which the Tribunals have been able to apprehend elite perpetrators and the volume of indictments.

Are these fair and appropriate measures of  international tribunals’ successes and failures? What other measures should we consider?