U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says governments around the world must intensify their efforts to bring remaining suspects from the Rwandan genocide to justice when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda closes its doors at the end of the year.
The rights group made the statement Wednesday, noting that the ICTR established important precedents in international criminal law and served as a predecessor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
It said the ICTR, founded by the United Nations Security Council in 1994, indicted 93 people, sentenced 61, and acquitted 14. It said the tribunal contributed “in an unprecedented way” to establishing the truth about what happened in Rwanda and providing justice to the victims of the violence.
But the rights group criticizes the tribunal for its “unwillingness” to prosecute any former members of the rebel group Rwandan Patriotic Front that ended the genocide. Now a political party, the group has held power in Rwanda since the end of the violence. Human Rights Watch blames the RPF for killing thousands of Hutu civilians as it took political control of the country, and notes that not a single RPF member has been prosecuted by the tribunal.
The genocide in Rwanda took place in 1994 and resulted from tensions between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis. Conservative Hutus are blamed for the killings of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
As the tribunal closes its doors, it is handing over several cases to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, an organization designed to handle residual legal work. Three cases from the ICTR will be passed to the organization, which also manages the appeals, retrials, and witness protection proceedings for the shuttered International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Eight Rwandan genocide suspects remain at large and are due to be tried by the mechanism or in Rwandan courts.