Dictionary of Gross Human Rights Violations

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was created in 1994 by the United Nations Security Council (Resolution 955) in order to bring to justice leaders responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The tribunal has jurisdiction over serious international crimes (specifically war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide) committed during 1994, as well as similar crimes committed by Rwandan citizens in other states. The Seat of the Tribunal is Arusha, Tanzania. The ICTR has three Trial Chambers of three judges each and a seven judge Appeals Chamber (shared with the Yugoslavia Tribunal). The Chief Prosecutor of the Rwanda Tribunal used to also function as the Chief Prosecutor of the Yugoslavia Tribunal but the two positions were separated in 2003. The following chart summarises the current status of the trials at the ICTR:

Detainees on Trial


Awaiting Trial


Awaiting Transfer (Bisengimana, Gacumbitsi, Imanishimwe, Kajelijeli, Kamuhanda, Niyitegeka, Ntakirutimana E & G, Ruggio, Rutaganda, Rutaganira, Semanza)


Pending Appeal (Arusha) (Barayagwiza, Muhimana, Muvunyi, Nahimana, Ndindabahizi, Ngeze, Simba)


Total Detainees in Arusha


Serving Sentences (Mali)(Akayesu, Kambanda, Kayishema, Musema, Ruzindana, Serushago)


Total Detainees


Released (Bagilishema, Bagambiki, Ntagerura, Mpambara, Rwamakuba, Ntuyahaga*, Rusatira**)


Died (Musabyimana, Serugendo)


Number of accused whose cases have been completed


Number of Judgements rendered


Total Arrests


                        Source: ICTR

The ICTR focuses on prosecuting leaders of the genocide as there are simply too many perpetrators for it to prosecute every single one. The crimes of persons not in leadership positions are prosecuted within the national justice system in Rwanda or handled through community justice initiatives. Somewhat paradoxically, low level perpetrators were facing the death penalty in the national courts while high-level perpetrators did not at the ICTR (no international court has the death penalty).1

The ICTR has sometimes suffered from being under-resourced and over-burdened; therefore, trials have often been quite slow. So far the tribunal has convicted twenty-six people and acquitted five. It has also been criticised in Rwanda (Rwanda was on the UN Security Council at the time of its creation and abstained on the vote on its creation) as being distant and disconnected from the public (and victims) in Rwanda. The Rwandan government has argued that the money dedicated to the expensive ICTR would be better utilised for Rwandan justice initiatives such as prosecutions and the Gacaca system. Nonetheless, the ICTR has dealt with some very important cases and rendered verdicts that are landmarks in international criminal law.



1 The death penalty is in the process of being abolished in Rwanda. Rwanda held its last execution in 1998 and many states will not transfer genocide suspects to Rwanda if they face execution.