You are here

Defence and Detention

As with other tribunals and courts of law, the Defence has been playing a crucial role in ICTR proceedings, upholding the principle of equality of arms and ensuring the fairness of proceedings.

The right of an accused person to a fair trial is one of the basic principles of criminal justice. All ICTR accused have the right to be represented by competent counsel. These and other rights are enshrined in Article 20 of the Tribunal’s Statute and are further regulated by its Rules of Procedure and Evidence. As with other tribunals and courts of law, the defence has been playing a crucial role in ICTR proceedings, upholding the principle of equality of arms between the Prosecution and Defence and ensuring the fairness of the proceedings.

Since 1997, the Defence Counsel & Detention Management Section (DCDMS) has been assuring the provision of competent defence counsel to indigent accused persons detained under the authority of the ICTR. The Section also ensures conformity of the United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF) with international standards.

The Right to Defence Counsel

Defence counsels are responsible for conducting the defence of an accused person throughout all stages of the case. The ICTR has long recognised, pursuant to Article 20(4)(d) of the Statute, that all persons indicted by and appearing before the Tribunal have the right to be represented by counsel. If an accused wished to retain defence counsel, they could choose from a list of qualified practitioners or be assigned one by the Registrar.

Defence counsels at the ICTR are not part of the institutional structure but rather paid as independent contractors, traveling to Arusha as necessary for their case. The DCDMS was created as part of the Registry to liaise with and facilitate the work of defence counsels.


One of the key responsibilities of DCDMS was to compile and maintain the list of Defence Counsel, which was submitted to the indigent detainees to allow them to select counsel. The list was made up of more than 200 lawyers from a wide variety of countries . After counsel was selected, the section was responsible with liaising between the Registrar and counsel on all matters related to the fulfillment of their mandate, namely providing the best possible defence for their client. This was done by ensuring the implementation of various rules that governed the workings of the Tribunal and also providing for the remuneration and reimbursement of Defence teams, as well as other additional functions.

The United Nations Detention Facility

The ICTR created the first stand-alone detention facility in the history of the United Nations. Based in Arusha, Tanzania, it contains fifty-six cells and has housed many accused over its lifetime. All activities related to the UNDF facility are in conformity with international standards, and over time, security officers and Tanzanian police officers have been trained in these standards while working or training at UNDF. It is important to note that the UNDF is solely a detention facility, so detainees only stayed until the end of their court proceedings. When the Trial Chamber found an accused guilty, the sentence had to be served in a country which had previously agreed with the ICTR. On 1 July 2012, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals took over responsibility for the supervision of all sentences pronounced by the ICTR.

Map on Enforcement of Sentences