Arusha Project


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
August 15, 2009, 10:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is located in Arusha town.  The Tribunal was created in 1994 to prosecute government officials, local leaders, religious leaders, citizens and media operators for acts of genocide and crimes against humanity during 1994 in Rwanda.  Later in 1996, the United Nations detention facility was created in to hold accused persons from the tribunal, and was constructed especially for this purpose about 10 km away from the center of town.  Among important precedents set by the ICTR including designating rape as a method of genocide and prosecuting a ruling head of state.  Both of these precedents have impacted other UN tribunals around the world.

Our visit to the ICTR began with an hour visit to view the court in session – and the experience was not what we were expecting. The prosecutors spent a half hour discerning the correct spelling of the defendant’s name, then argued over correct procedure, and at one point realized 10 minutes into a new session that the witness was missing.  The visit was an interesting lesson in the efficacy (or lack there of) of the court, as well as all the (un)necessary jargon and proceedings.  Afterwards, we watched a film on the history of the court, followed by a briefing by the office of the prosecutor.  Rashmi, one of the volunteers, asked what affect if any the court had on Arusha town.  The prosecutor responded that it had brought jobs and a cash flow to the area from the 100 or so employees stationed at the ICTR, which had a positive effect on the local economy.  Another question was how Rwandans responded to the court, what they thought of its efficacy in the reconciliation of their country.  The prosecutor answered there were both positive and negative reactions, some appreciated the intensity and passion of the court to bring justice, but there was also a lot of frustration and confusion in the aftermath.  For example, while many of the top administrators or leaders were brought to trial, many citizens were not and remained free in the community.  And as this genocide included most of the population as alternating perpetrator and victim, the line of justice is muddled.  Specifically, it was mentioned in our later discussion many people who had carried out the genocide were still living in the community of the people whom they had killed, fostering local unrest and unease.  Overall the experience was eye-opening and provided interesting insight into the workings of an international court.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the ICTR website (ictr.org).

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