Base fontsize
Larger fontsize
Set contrast


The Rwandan Civil War from 1990, fought between the Hutu regime and the rebel Tutsi group RPF, both with external support, vastly increased the ethnic tensions in the country. Despite continuing ethnic strife, there was a cease-fire in 1993. In April 1994 the Rwandan and the Burundian President were killed, allegedly by Hutu extremists. This triggered genocide of approximately 100 days of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutu. This lead the Tutsi RPF to restart their offensive and to eventually seize control of Rwanda.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has been established in November 1994 by the UN Security Council. Its mandate is to judge on genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to try those persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international law in Rwanda, or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states, during 1994. The Tribunal is located in Arusha, Tanzania.

There have been for example trials against former leaders, like the interim Prime Minister of 1994, Jean Kambanda, whom the ICTR has sentenced to life imprisonment, and against persons in charge of the so-called “hate-media” which encouraged the genocide.

The UN Security Council called on the Tribunal to complete its investigations by end of 2004, complete all trial activities by end of 2008 (later extended to end of 2009), and complete all work in 2012. It has recently been discussed that this agenda may not be realistic. It might still be changed.

Because of its capacity, the ICTR needs to focus on the most important perpetrators. Since the ICT was not sufficient to restore justice in the population at large, Rwanda has in 2001 re-installed a decentralized system of community justice, the Gacaca courts, based on traditional forms of justice. Until June 2012, there have been more than 13,000 Gacaca courts all over the country. The intention was to promote community healing by making punishment of perpetrators faster and less expensive. By 2008, approximately one million people had appeared before these courts, of which about 800,000 have been tried. Originally, the Gacacas as village assemblies, presided by the ancients, settled village or familial disputes. The re-installation of the Gacaca courts was quite controversial in Rwanda.

In addition to the ICTR and the Gacacas, there have been three other transitional justice mechanims, a National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, an International Panel of Eminent Personalities, and the International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda.

More information:

Last change: 27.06.12 - 12:45