Wednesday, December 30, 2015

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda To Close Its Doors December 31, 2015

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), created in the wake of the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994,  has rendered its last judgment and will officially close its doors on New Year's Eve 2015.

On December 14, the ICTR  delivered its final judgment on appeal in the case against former Minister of Family and Women’s Development Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and five co-accused. Nyiramasuhuko was the first woman convicted of genocide by an international court. The court found her guilty of rape and other crimes. The Appeals Chamber upheld the convictions for most of the charges, but lowered the prison sentences for all six defendants.

In another significant development in December, Congolese officials arrested Ladislas Ntaganzwa, the former mayor of Nyakizu, Rwanda, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ICTR had indicted Ntaganzwa for genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity, and transferred his case to Rwanda in 2012 for trial. He is currently detained in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.

The United Nations Security Council established the ICTR in 1994 to prosecute persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda or by Rwandan citizens in neighboring countries between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1994. It was expected to try mostly high-level suspects and those who played a leading role in the genocide.

Among the ICTR's successes are the trial and conviction of several prominent figures, including former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda; the former army chief of staff, General Augustin Bizimungu; and the former Defense Ministry chief of staff, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora. During its 20 years in existence, the ICTR indicted 93 people, sentenced 61, and acquitted 14, helping to establish the truth relating to the Rwandan genocide and providing justice to victims. The ICTR also established important precedents in international criminal law and served as a model for  the creation of the International Criminal Court under the 1998 Rome Statute.

Despite these successes, the ICTR has also been criticized for the lack of reparations for victims,  its location outside Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, its handling of a relatively small number of cases, its high operating costs, and its lengthy trials.  It also has been criticized for its unwillingness to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 1994 by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the rebel group that ended the genocide and has been Rwanda’s ruling party ever since. 

Prosecutions of perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Rwanda will continue through the Rwandan justice system and in the domestic courts of several other countries, including Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and France. The ICTR also is handing over three other cases to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. 

A top priority continues to be the arrest, transfer, and prosecution of eight remaining fugitives, five of whom are to be tried by Rwanda and three by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals: former Defense Minister Augustin Bizimana, the former commander of the Presidential Guard Protais Mpiranya, and Félicien Kabuga, a businessman. The execution of international arrest warrants has posed a major problem in international criminal law. Neither the ICTR nor the residual mechanism have their own police to carry out arrests and depend entirely on the cooperation of states where suspects are living. Rwanda's Minister of Justice has called upon the international community to assist in bringing those suspects to justice to finish the work carried out by the ICTR.


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