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close this bookLaw in Humanitarian Crises Volume I : How Can International Humanitarian Law Be Made Effective in Armed Conflicts? (European Commission Humanitarian Office)
close this folderThe Laws of War: Problems of Implementation in Contemporary Conflicts
close this folderIII. Problems of Implementation in Wars since 1980
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Iran-Iraq War 1980-88
View the document2. The 1990-91 Gulf Conflict
View the document3. The Wars in the Former Yugoslavia since 1991
View the document4. Civil War and Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia 1992-95
View the document5. International Conference, Geneva, August-September 1993
View the document6. Rwanda 1994

6. Rwanda 1994

The acts of genocide in Rwanda in the first half of 1994 required a response from the UN Security Council. It failed to secure the cooperation of states to take effective action to stop the killings, but in November 1994 it took steps to establish the International Tribunal for Rwanda. This was the first time that an international criminal tribunal had been established in respect of an essentially non-international situation. Successive articles in the tribunal's Statute encompass the crime of genocide; crimes against humanity; and rules of instruments governing non-international armed conflicts - in particular common Article 3 of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, and 1977 Geneva Protocol II. In addition, many offences are also violations of the law of Rwanda. The establishment of this tribunal constitutes further evidence of a desire to bring massive human rights violations inside states, including in internal armed conflicts, within the ambit of international rules. The fact that the tribunal was established in pursuance of a request from the Government of Rwanda may increase the possibility of its getting sufficient local co-operation to be able to achieve significant results. However, there are grounds for nervousness. When on 8 November 1994 the Security Council debated the resolution establishing the Tribunal, the representative of Rwanda voted against, and expressed his country's dissatisfaction with the arrangements for the tribunal on grounds roughly summarized as follows:

1. Its competence is limited to events of 1994, whereas in fact there had been massacres in Rwanda since 1959, and the genocide there had been long prepared.

2. Its composition and structure is inappropriate and ineffective. It "would only appease the conscience of the international community rather than respond to the expectations of the Rwandese people and the victims of genocide in particular". The sharing of the office of Prosecutor, and the Appeals Chamber, with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is unsatisfactory.

3. It risks dispersing its energy in trying not only genocide but also crimes that come under the jurisdiction of internal tribunals.

4. Certain countries which "took a very active part in the civil war in Rwanda " are able to propose candidates for judges and participate in their election.

5. Some of those condemned may be imprisoned outside Rwanda, and the countries concerned may have too much say in reaching decisions about the detainees.

6. Capital punishment is ruled out, whereas it is provided for in the Rwanda penal code.

7. The seat of the tribunal should have been in Rwanda rather than Tanzania.

Many of these objections resulted from fears that the international community, having failed to take decisive action during the time of mass killings, was only taking token action now. The very slow progress of the Rwanda tribunal to date risks confirming these fears, and undermining confidence in the tribunal both in Rwanda and internationally. Kenya's refusal to extradite those wanted by the tribunal, announced on 5 October 1995, added to the doubts.

Internal atrocities, including those in Rwanda, can also be addressed by national legal procedures, even in states not directly involved. This is part of a broader process by which internal atrocities are increasingly seen as international crimes. Thus the 1993 Belgian law on Crimes de Droit International includes provision for Belgian criminal jurisdiction over certain breaches of 1977 Geneva Protocol II, regardless of the nationality of the victim or perpetrator, or of where the offence was committed. In accord with this, on 29 May 1995 the Brussels prosecutors' office issued several international arrest warrants against persons involved in the atrocities in Rwanda.