The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda[lower-alpha 1] (ICTR; French: Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda; Kinyarwanda: Urukiko Mpanabyaha Mpuzamahanga Rwashyiriweho u Rwanda) was an international court established in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 955 in order to judge people responsible for the Rwandan genocide and other serious violations of international law in Rwanda, or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states, between 1 January and 31 December 1994. The court eventually convicted 85 individuals at a cost of $1.3 billion.
In 1995, it became located in Arusha, Tanzania, under Resolution 977. From 2006, Arusha also became the location of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In 1998 the operation of the tribunal was expanded in Resolution 1165. Through several resolutions, the Security Council called on the tribunal to complete its investigations by end of 2004, complete all trial activities by end of 2008, and complete all work in 2012. The tribunal had jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of Common Article Three and Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions (which deals with internal conflicts).
As of 2009, the tribunal had finished 50 trials and convicted 29 accused persons, and another 11 trials were in progress and 14 individuals were awaiting trial in detention; but the prosecutor intended to transfer 5 to national jurisdiction for trial. 13 others were still at large, some suspected to be dead. The first trial, of Jean-Paul Akayesu, began in 1997. Jean Kambanda, interim Prime Minister, pleaded guilty. According to the ICTR’s Completion Strategy, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1503, all first-instance cases were to have completed trial by the end of 2008 (this date was later extended to the end of 2009) and all work was to be completed by 2010. The United Nations Security Council called upon the tribunal to finish its work by 31 December 2014 to prepare for its closure and transfer of its responsibilities to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT or Mechanism) which had begun functioning for the ICTR branch on 1 July 2012. The Tribunal was officially closed on 31 December 2015.
The tribunal’s failure to prosecute war crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front or try RPF leader Paul Kagame was widely criticized, to the point of being characterized as “victor’s justice“.
The Rwandan genocide refers to the mass slaughter of more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu by government-directed gangs of Hutu extremist soldiers and police in Rwanda. The duration of the 1994 genocide is usually described as 100 days, beginning on April 6 and ending in mid-July.
The tension between the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi had developed over time but was particularly emphasized late in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century as a result of German and Belgian colonialism over Rwanda. The ethnic categorization of the two was an imposed and an arbitrary construct based more on physical characteristics than ethnic background. However, the social differences between the Hutu and the Tusi have traditionally allowed the Tutsi, with a strong pastoralist tradition, to gain social, economic, and political ascendancy over the Hutu, who were primarily agriculturalists. The distinction under colonial powers allowed Tutsis to establish ruling power until a Hutu revolution in 1959 abolished the Tutsi monarchy by 1961.
The hostility between the two groups continued, as “additional rounds of ethnic tension and violence flared periodically and led to mass killings of Tutsi in Rwanda, such as in 1963, 1967, and 1973”.[attribution needed] The establishment of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and its invasion from Uganda furthered ethnic hatred. A ceasefire in these hostilities led to negotiations between the government and the RPF in 1992.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi was shot down, killing everyone on board. The Hutu held the RPF accountable and immediately began the genocide, targeted at both Tutsis and Hutu moderates.
Most of the killing during the Rwandan genocide was carried out by the radical Hutu groups known as the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi. Radio broadcasts also were an integral part of the genocide, which further fueled the genocide by encouraging Hutu civilians to kill their Tutsi neighbours, labeled as “cockroaches” in need of extermination. Despite its colossal scale, particularly within such a short period of time, the genocide was carried out almost entirely by hand, usually with the utilization of machetes and clubs. Various atrocities committed include the rape of thousands of Tutsi women, as well as the dismemberment and disfigurement of victims. Frequently the killers were people the victims knew personally—neighbors, workmates, former friends, sometimes even relatives through marriage. At least 500,000 Tutsis were killed, and approximately 2 million refugees (mostly Hutus) left for refugee camps of neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and former Zaire.