The International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda


International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda


In the face of the massive violations of international humanitarian law on the territory of the former Yugoslavia as well as the massacres in Rwanda, the United Nations Security Council decided to establish ad hoc tribunals to bring those responsible to justice. The legal basis for the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague are Security Council Resolutions 808 dated 22 February and 827 dated 25 May 1993, and for the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, Security Council Resolution 955 dated 8 November 1994. All three Resolutions fall within the scope of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.


Both Tribunals comprise trial chambers with a joint appeals chamber, the Office of the Prosecutor and administrative officials. The judges are appointed by the UN General Assembly from a list prepared by the Security Council and designed to ensure equal representation of the various different legal systems. The Tribunal Presidents are appointed from among the judges, the current President of the ICTY being Theodor Meron from the US and of the ICTR Eric Møse from Norway. The Chief Prosecutors are nominated by the UN Secretary-General and appointed by the Security Council. No government or other body has authority over the Chief Prosecutors, who are completely independent. The current Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY is Carla del Ponte, the former Swiss Federal Public Prosecutor, while that of the ICTR is Hassan Bubacar Jallow, a former judge at the Gambia's Supreme Court. The Tribunal Registrars, who head the administration, are appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The ICTY Registrar is Hans Holthuis from the Netherlands and the ICTR Registrar is Adama Dieng from Senegal.


The ICTY is mandated to prosecute and try the perpetrators of the heinous crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, violations against the laws of war and serious breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions) committed during the violent conflict that broke out in 1991 in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal can therefore also call to account those responsible for crimes committed in Kosovo. The task of the ICTR is to bring to justice those involved in the genocide and grave crimes against humanity that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 at the cost of some 800,000 Hutu and Tutsi lives. Both Tribunals have broken new ground. Through its interpretation and practical application of existing norms of international criminal law as well as its new rules of procedure and evidence, the ICTY has set standards that have helped to shape not only the Statute and future work of the permanent International Criminal Court but also the evolution of domestic law. Slobodan Milosevic's transfer to The Hague in June 2001 and the opening of his trial sent a clear message that even holders of the highest government office can be held to account for crimes committed at their behest. Through the verdicts it has handed down on the leaders of the Rwandan massacres, the ICTR has written legal history: for the first time individuals have been found guilty of genocide by an international tribunal under the 1948 Convention on genocide.

Cooperation with the Tribunals

The German Government gives full and unreserved backing to the work of both Tribunals. It views its support for the ICTY as an important part of its commitment to promote peace in the region. Bringing to justice the perpetrators on all sides of the crimes that have been committed is essential if the wounds of the past are to heal and peace be restored. In addition to its regular annual contributions of US$ 8 million for the ICTY and US$ 7.5 million for the ICTR, the German Government also makes a number of voluntary contributions, sending, for example, a team of experts to help with the investigations carried out by the ICTY in Kosovo. The German authorities regularly share information and liaise with the ICTY on matters relating to proceedings in Germany as well as providing valuable legal assistance on request. Individuals called by the ICTY as witnesses are granted permission to stay in Germany as well as financial support. Two persons convicted by the Tribunal have been transferred to Germany to serve their sentences.

The legal basis for cooperation with the Tribunals is the Act on Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (Bundestagsdrucksache 13/57 of 29 November 1994) and the Act on Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Bundestagsdrucksache 13/7953 of 12 June 1997), both of which can be obtained from the German Bundestag.

Further information

While the Tribunals are independent and their investigations confidential, some information is available at their websites http://www.un.org./icty and http://www.ictr.org on the background to proceedings and the status of ongoing cases as well as further information on their work and legal basis.

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