The long arm of Universal Jurisdiction

11 November 2009 by Thijs Bouwknegt

As the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) prepares to close its doors in Tanzania, courts around the world are taking up the task of trying suspected Rwandan génocidaires. They do so under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction: a doctrine that allows prosecutors to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture, war crimes or genocide committed elsewhere. 

Several countries, including Finland, Belgium and Canada, have already brought cases against Rwandans for their part in the 1994 genocide while others, including the Netherlands, are revising their laws to allow them to do so in the future.

For the next three weeks, a twelve-member jury at the Assise Court in Brussels will hear the case against the former director of the Rwanda Commercial Bank (BCR), Ephrem Nkezabera. The 56-year-old Rwandan is charged with violations of international criminal law and war crimes.

He admits many of the charges alleged against him, including arming and financing the machete-wielding Interahamwe militia which spearheaded the three-month massacre. He also acknowledges providing funding for the extremist Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). Although he denies charges of rape and murder, he does admit that individuals from his immediate circle killed two people in front of him.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.