The troubled mandate of the ICTR

19 November 2007 by Thierry Cruvellier

On November 8, thirteen years ago, the United Nations Security Council created the ICTR to try those primarily responsible for the serious crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. Representatives of the Arusha tribunal promise it will have finished its first instance trials by the end of 2008, except for one, which will be completed in 2009. Two uncertainties still weigh on the ICTR: its ability to transfer some of the accused to national courts and the 14 fugitives. But most of all, the ICTR continues to mourn its most serious failure: the absence of proceedings against the winners of the war.

In fifteen years, the ICTR will have indicted 90 individuals and prosecuted between 60 and 70. The acknowledgement of the genocide of Tutsis, perpetrated between April and July 1994, will have been the heart of its work and its accomplishment. On multiple levels, Hassan Jallow, the ICTR's fourth and final prosecutor, embodies a pragmatic and realistic vision of what the tribunal was able to accomplish. "We learned that the legal process is an important, necessary part of conflict resolution, but it's not enough. Justice for the victims, justice for history, we cannot deliver; you need to put a diversity of mechanisms in order to deal with all aspects of the problem," he acknowledged. For four years, the Gambian prosecutor has remained scrupulously committed to keeping the closing date of 2008. To do this, he has still not held the same trump card as the ICTY: the possibility of transferring some of the accused to national courts. This exit solution—made necessary by the international tribunals' lack of effectiveness—has turned out to be nothing but a major headache for the ICTR. No one wants to try Rwandan genocidaires, except Rwanda.

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