For the first time in history, an international tribunal - the ICTR - delivered verdicts against persons responsible for committing genocide. The ICTR was also the first institution to recognise rape as a means of perpetrating genocide.
The United Nations Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to "prosecute persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994". The Tribunal is located in Arusha, Tanzania, and has offices in Kigali, Rwanda. Its Appeals Chamber is located in The Hague, Netherlands.
Since it opened in 1995, the Tribunal has indicted 93 individuals whom it considered responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda in 1994. Those indicted include high-ranking military and government officials, politicians, businessmen, as well as religious, militia, and media leaders.
With its sister international tribunals and courts, the ICTR has played a pioneering role in the establishment of a credible international criminal justice system, producing a substantial body of jurisprudence on genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, as well as forms of individual and superior responsibility.
The ICTR is the first ever international tribunal to deliver verdicts in relation to genocide, and the first to interpret the definition of genocide set forth in the 1948 Geneva Conventions. It also is the first international tribunal to define rape in international criminal law and to recognise rape as a means of perpetrating genocide.
Another landmark was reached in the "Media case", where the ICTR became the first international tribunal to hold members of the media responsible for broadcasts intended to inflame the public to commit acts of genocide.
The ICTR delivered its last trial judgement on 20 December 2012 in the Ngirabatware case. Following this milestone, the Tribunal's remaining judicial work now rests solely with the Appeals Chamber. As of October 2014, only one case comprising six separate appeals is pending before the ICTR Appeals Chamber. One additional appeal from ICTR trial judgement was delivered in December 2014 in the Ngirabatware case by the appeals chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, which started assuming responsibility for the ICTR's residual functions on 1 July 2012.
One key function assumed by the Mechanism is the tracking and arrest of the three accused who remain fugitives from justice. The ICTR indicted Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya, and Augustin Bizimana on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, but the accused have to date evaded justice. The continued cooperation of national governments and the international community as a whole is of paramount importance to the successful apprehension of these fugitives. When apprehended, the Mechanism will conduct their trials and supervise any sentence imposed along with all of the sentences previously imposed by the ICTR.
The ICTR's formal closure is scheduled to coincide with the return of the Appeals Chamber's judgement in its last appeal. Until the return of that judgement in 2015, the ICTR will continue its efforts to end impunity for those responsible for the Genocide through a combination of judicial, outreach, and capacity-building efforts. Through these efforts, the ICTR will fulfil its mandate of bringing justice to the victims of the Genocide and, in the process, hopes to deter others from committing similar atrocities in the future.