ICTR marks 20th anniversary and celebrates legacy

Arusha, The Hague
ICTR, Arusha, Tanzania

This week the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its establishment. Celebrations started yesterday and will end with a commemoration on Saturday, 8 November 2014 in Arusha, Tanzania.

The ICTR was established 20 years ago, pursuant to Resolution 955 (1994) of the United Nations Security Council. Since 1 July 2012, and as the ICTR is nearing the completion of its mandate, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), established pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010), has assumed the ICTR’s residual functions, including the enforcement of ICTR sentences and the potential trials of indicted fugitives. The Mechanism is responsible for the management and preservation of the extensive ICTR records, as well as for guarding its legacy once the ICTR closes its doors.

MICT and ICTY President Judge Theodor Meron noted that “the ICTR’s contribution to ending impunity for mass violations of international humanitarian law has been invaluable. Among the priorities of the Mechanism in the coming years is to ensure that the remarkable legacy of the ICTR lives on and that its archives are accessible not only to the legal community, but also the public at large in Rwanda and the world”.

The 20th anniversary ceremony, to be held on 8 November in Arusha, Tanzania, will be attended, in addition to Judge Meron, by ICTR President Vagn Joensen, ICTR and MICT Prosecutor Justice Hassan B. Jallow, ICTR Registrar Bongani Majola, ICTY and MICT Registrar John Hocking, along with a number of dignitaries, including the UN Legal Counsel, the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and members of the Rwandan and Tanzanian Governments.  These officials, together with representatives of victims and staff associations, will reflect upon the legacy and achievements of the ICTR in the past 20 years. A new ICTR legacy website and a special commemorative video recording will be presented to the public by the ICTR Registrar.

This week preceding the main ceremony, several events are taking place to mark the ICTR’s anniversary, including the 7th Colloquium of International Prosecutors, in Arusha, Tanzania on 4 and 5 November. The event hosts over a hundred prominent international and domestic prosecutors, as well as representatives of NGOs and the academia. Entitled “Local Prosecution of International Crimes: Challenges and Prospects”, the Colloquium will discuss the ever-growing role of national courts in prosecuting international crimes.  In his opening speech Prosecutor Jallow underlined that over the past two decades the ICTR had been part of the “global struggle for justice and accountability in a network of tribunals that has seen the tremendous expansion of international jurisprudence (…)”. He spoke about the need to bring to justice the nine remaining fugitives, and assured that “the MICT and the international community will not relent but intensify its efforts to secure their arrest and accountability, no matter how long it takes to do so”.

Furthermore, a two-day International Symposium on the Legacy of the ICTR will be held in Arusha on 6 and 7 November, gathering a number of ICTR, ICTY, and MICT officials, as well as representatives of other international organisations and domestic authorities to assess various aspects of the ICTR legacy. The topics to be discussed include international fair trials and detention standards, national capacity building and outreach efforts, prosecuting sexual violence, and evolution of defence systems in international tribunals. One of the key speakers at the Symposium will be MICT and ICTY Registrar John Hocking. Reflecting on the ICTR’s anniversary, he remarked, “Nearly at its closure, the ICTR is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago at the dawning of modern international criminal justice. Its legacy continues to enflame the global desire for justice, light the way for national and international courts, and rouse the hearts of the victims.”

Also in November, following these events, the ICTR will hand over to the Government of Rwanda the management of the Information and Documentation Centre, based in Kigali, Rwanda.  Additionally, the ICTR legacy website will be officially launched later this year in The Hague and in New York.