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?