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From a conference to a website

From contradictory debates to summarized, accessible and bilingual outcomes

While the ICTR has entered its “completion strategy” and whereas international criminal justice is gradually becoming a durable but multiform international stage, two academic and research centres have started to analyse the outcomes of the ICTR experience.

Although the idea to judge individuals for their involvement in mass crimes against humanity goes back to 1918 and was first made a reality with the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, international criminal justice as it is becoming a new reality today is the consequence of a more recent, institutional process that started in 1993 with the foundation of the ad hoc tribunals: the first one dealing with the crimes committed in ex Yugoslavia since 1994 (ICTY) and the second one dealing with the crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994 (ICTR).

Even though these tribunals have been criticised to be a mere draft project or even an obvious failure, these first two experiences have revealed the inherent and direct consequences of a rhetorical fight against impunity. Moreover it has permitted to go beyond incantatory declarations and to identify on the ground field what is at stake in international justice in terms of crimes against humanity as well as to name specific difficulties that might be avoidable in the future and to alert people to the challenges which lie ahead the implementation of an impartial judicial process.

Today international criminal justice takes several forms: permanent court (ICC), mixed jurisdictions (Sierra Leone, Cambodia) with sometimes new mandates (Special Tribunal for Lebanon in charge of trying crimes of terrorism), special national courts with the participation of international judges (Special Chamber of the Supreme Court of Kosovo). It coexists alongside other authorities that try the same crimes (national courts in the name of the universal competence) and sometimes according different rational grounds (transitional justice, truth commissions).

The academic project, whose outcome is documented on this website, aims to open the debate on the lessons learned from 16 years of judicial practice within the ICTR. Its result is necessary and useful to construct international criminal justice as a whole. Set up in Afrique, the ICTR has been less analysed than the ICTY. Nevertheless, it has been confronted with the specific issue of the genocide that involved at the same time and sometimes in a complementary way, the intervention of several jurisdictions (national courts in Rwanda as well as in France, Great Britain, Canada and Belgium; the so called transitional justice with the Gacaca). Moreover, the ICTR’s work has taken place in a region that has always suffered major violations and has underlined the existence of great tensions between justice and politics.

Project’s guidelines

  • multidisciplinary: the questions of international criminal justice are no longer left to legal experts but need to be raised in a dialogue between sociologists, jurists, philosophers and political scientists.
  • focused on the “protagonists” of the justice: different actors run this authority (judges, lawyers, prosecutors, members of the registrar, translators, court reporters, witnesses, NGO’s, journalists, State representatives etc.) Since 1994 the international criminal justice’s “staff” has been formed and this projects aims to give them the floor.
  • led by academic institutions: it is independent and unrestricted except for negationism
  • fostering constructive debates and using creative communication means (website, documentary films, digital tools)

From a conference to a website

Based on the the Geneva conference that brought together during three days 70 stakeholders of Arusha’s justice, this project evolves today with the launching of this website.

This website offers:

  • the full transcripts of the oral presentations in the original and translated version (English/French)
  • the records of the sessions (coming soon)
  • a data base of statistics and graphics documenting the ICTR’s 16 years long activity
  • a publication: 15 articles written by stakeholders of the international criminal justice (coming soon)

Institutions supporting the project

Institute of Economic and Social Development Studies (IEDES)
University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne
UMR 201 "Development and Society" (UMR 201): Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne University-IRD

The Graduate Institute (IHEID)
The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights (ADH)

Their work was made possible:

Thanks to the support of Paris I University

Thanks to the faithful and determined support of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland (FDFA)