2 September 1998

The UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda finds Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of a small town in Rwanda, guilty of nine counts of genocide.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was a special international court established by the United Nations (UN) to prosecute individuals responsible for the genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. The genocide in Rwanda was one of the most brutal and devastating events in recent history, during which an estimated 800,000 people, primarily ethnic Tutsis, were systematically killed by ethnic Hutu extremists in just 100 days.

Establishment: The ICTR was established on November 8, 1994, by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 955. Its creation was part of the international community’s response to the Rwandan genocide.

Jurisdiction: The ICTR had jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions committed in Rwanda and neighboring countries during 1994. It primarily focused on prosecuting those who were allegedly responsible for planning and carrying out the genocide.

Location: The ICTR was headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania. The choice of location was made to ensure the court’s independence and security while maintaining proximity to the region where the crimes occurred.

Mandate: The tribunal’s mandate included the investigation, prosecution, and trial of individuals suspected of being among the top leaders, military officials, and other key figures responsible for the genocide and related crimes. It also aimed to contribute to the process of reconciliation and justice in Rwanda.

Key Figures: The ICTR indicted and prosecuted numerous high-ranking officials, military officers, and leaders of Rwandan political parties and media organizations who were accused of playing a significant role in the genocide. Notable among them were Jean Kambanda, the Prime Minister of Rwanda during the genocide, and Jean-Paul Akayesu, the first person to be convicted of genocide by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg Trials.

Completion: Over its two decades of existence, the ICTR successfully prosecuted many individuals for their roles in the Rwandan genocide. Its work was marked by both successes and challenges. The tribunal officially closed on December 31, 2015. Some remaining functions and cases were transferred to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which also handles cases from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Legacy: The ICTR played a significant role in bringing perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide to justice and establishing a historical record of the events. It also contributed to the development of international criminal law and jurisprudence. Additionally, the tribunal’s work aimed to promote reconciliation and healing in Rwanda by addressing the legacy of the genocide.