The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has become the first organization of its kind to receive the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Human Rights Award. The award, which recognizes a significant contribution to human rights, was conferred in acknowledgement of the ICTR’s unwavering support for the due process of law, and its contribution to the goal of national reconciliation following the Rwandan genocide.
The award – the first to be conferred on an International Tribunal - also commends the ICTR’s strong commitment to law and justice in Rwanda, and the building-up of confidence as the basis for peace and democracy, not only in Rwanda but throughout the international community as a whole.
The President of the ICTR, Judge Navanethem Pillay, accompanied by Mr. Adama Dieng, ICTR Registrar and Mr. Roland Amoussouga, Chief of External Relations and ICTR Spokesperson, accepted the 2003 Human Rights Award on behalf of the ICTR on 20 May.
Prior to the award ceremony, the ICTR delegation and Mr. Christian Chartier, ICTY Chief of Public Information Services, met with the press to discuss the work and achievements of the Rwanda Tribunal. President Pillay also participated in a panel discussion moderated by Mrs. Conny Czymoch, of German television station, Phoenix, entitled ‛The International System of Criminal Law : For the Rule of Law against Despotism and Violence’. Also on the panel were other eminent figures, including Dr. Thomas Laufer, Head of the Department of Law in the German Foreign Office, Prof. Dr. Christian Tomuschat of Humboldt University of Berlin, and Mr. Rudolf Bindig, Member of the Human Rights Committee of the German Federal Parliament.
This year’s award was presented by Mrs. Anke Fuchs, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung President, at a ceremony in Berlin, Germany. The proceedings also featured an exhibition of the ICTR’s achievements and work.
During the award’s presentation, the German Federal Minister of Justice, Mrs. Brigitte Zypries, paid tribute to the ICTR, its objectives and its accomplishments. Mrs. Zypries also acknowledged the exceptional contribution of the ICTR to international criminal jurisprudence.
Responding to Mrs. Zypries, President Pillay expressed gratitude for the fact that the ICTR was acknowledged by Germany’s oldest political foundation. She stressed that ″there can be no lasting peace without justice, as justice also serves as an important deterrent to those who would violate fundamental human rights with impunity.″
″The ICTR is an important part of a new and desperately needed ray of hope for recognition of international law in the terrain of lawlessness that has plagued our history and threatens to plague our future. The ICTR is the standard bearer of international norms of conduct and must serve with credibility as a neutral adjudicator unbending to political consideration,″President Pillay added.
Judge Pillay further thanked the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung for the Human Rights Award, which she said ″has great meaning to all of us at the ICTR, and [proves] that the ICTR, through its jurisprudence and trial proceedings, is establishing a historical record of what happened in Rwanda between April and July 1994, a record which will help keep alive the world’s collective memory and which [needs] all the support it can get from governments, individuals, NGOs and foundations like Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.″
While in Berlin, the ICTR delegation was also warmly welcomed by senior members of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and took part in a series of high-level meetings with the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Foreign Office. These meetings aimed to secure Germany’s full support for the work of the Tribunal.
The ICTR delegation was also received by Mr. Hans Buttner, Member of the Committee of Foreign Relations and Head of the Parliamentary Group on Southern Africa of the German Federal Parliament, and by other members of political and civil society organizations.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung is a public-interest, private body that was created in 1925 as a legacy to the ideals of the German nation’s first democratically elected President, Friedrich Ebert. The ICTR is the tenth recipient of the organization’s Human Rights Award, which has been awarded annually since 1994. Previous recipients include the President of Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Kailash Satyarthi, of the Global March against Child Servitude and, last year, the Israeli-Palestinian Coalition for Peace.