Pursuing justice for Rwanda and Yugoslavia

1 min 49Approximate reading time

The arrest of Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga has put the spotlight on a UN legal body that is still bringing people to justice for war crimes more than two decades after the events.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) was created to wrap up the work of separate UN tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, both of which have now closed.

With offices in The Hague and Arusha, northern Tanzania, the MICT has the power to track fugitives from the two outbreaks of bloodshed, deal with ongoing cases and supervise the enforcement of sentences, but will not issue new indictments.

– Rwanda tribunal –

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up in 1994 in Arusha just months after the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people, most of them Tutsi, were killed.

In September 1998 it became the first international tribunal to hand down a conviction for genocide. The court issued dozens of rulings, from life sentences to acquittals, before closing in late 2015.

Its work was taken over by the MICT’s office in Arusha, where the overall MICT chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, is based.

– Rwanda fugitives –

With Kabuga’s arrest in France, there are now only two suspects left on the MICT’s wanted list for Rwanda.

Augustin Bizimana, a former Rwandan defence minister, is believed to be in DR Congo.

The 68-year-old “had a position of authority that would compel members of the Rwandan Armed Forces”, Hutu militias and civilians to carry out crimes under his orders, according to an indictment.

Protais Mpiranya was the former head of the Rwandan presidential guard, an elite army unit that was one of the most active during the massacres.

Aged around 60, Mpiranya is accused of planning the extermination of Tutsis, training militia, distributing arms and ordering and taking part in massacres.

Both Bizimana and Mpiranya are charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, rape and persecution.

– Former Yugoslavia tribunal –

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) based in The Hague formally closed in 2017 after 24 years in operation.

The UN established the ICTY in 1993 to try perpetrators of war crimes committed in the ethnic violence that followed the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

It was the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals on World War II.

Key figures to appear at the tribunal included former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in his cell from natural causes in 2006, aged 64.

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty in 2016 of genocide and nine other charges, and sentenced to 40 years in jail.

In 2019, MICT judges increased his sentence to life.

Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, was the last person to be tried by the court and was sentenced to life in prison in 2017.

His appeal is still being dealt with by the MICT.

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