Impact of the Yugoslav and Rwanda Tribunals: Lessons for the International Criminal Court


ICTJ and the Center for Global Affairs of New York University (NYU) are co-hosting a panel discussion to explore the impact of international ad hoc tribunals on the communities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the possible lessons these courts’ experiences hold for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

View the live broadcast from 6:30pm–8:30pm, Tuesday November 29 2011.

More information on the event can be found here.

The International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia (ICTR and ICTY) have decisively contributed to the development of international justice and, to some extent, to national institutions addressing war crimes in the countries under their jurisdiction. Their achievements include successful trials of the most senior perpetrators of serious crimes, including former heads of states, government officials, and military commanders. Their work has shaped the development of international humanitarian law and greatly contributed to the establishment of the ICC.

At the same time, the common challenges of prosecuting high profile cases of mass atrocity with large numbers of victims and perpetrators, as well as being geographically remote from the countries where the crimes occurred, have significantly shaped the extent to which the tribunals have delivered on their mandates.

The ICTY and ICTR mandates include references to their role in establishing and maintaining a lasting peace and contributing to reconciliation of communities and entire peoples. However, the mechanisms for the implementation of such ambitious goals—rarely assigned to courts in national settings—have not been specified and built into the tribunals’ structures and legal frameworks.

This has resulted in significant oscillations in the interpretation—within the institutions themselves, in the policymaking circles, and the affected communities—of what these courts should and can achieve to foster the desired transformation of values in the societies under their jurisdiction. At the same time, the political realities impacting the cooperation of member states with the ICTY and ICTR and the perceptions of their work decisively shaped their relationships with their constituents and national justice mechanisms.

Outreach was seen as a way to bridge the gaps between these courts and the communities they were supposed to serve. The first outreach capacity in an international justice setting was established at the ICTY in 1999 as a response to pervasive denial of facts established in ICTY judgments, in addition to an obvious need to have justice meted out by the tribunal both seen and accepted by the communities in which the crimes occurred. However, outreach was not seen by all as an integral part of the core mandate of international courts, and its role continues to be debated by both practitioners and policymakers.

The panel comprising Richard Goldstone, David Tolbert, Hassan Jallow and Diane Orentlicher would aim to explore these issues from a perspective of actors and experts with rich experience working for international tribunals and extensively writing on the topics at hand. In a discussion moderated by Jennifer Trahan of NYU Global Affairs, the panel will examine the impact of two ad hoc Tribunals in the affected communities and possible lessons to be drawn by the ICC.

More information and registration for the event can be found here.