Putting Justice in Context: Exploring perceptions of the ICTR and the development of international criminal justice standards within the Rwandan legal community

Heather Kunin, SIT Study Abroad

Uganda and Rwanda: Post Conflict Transformation


In the past few decades, international criminal law has undergone significant advancements. The establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda marked the first time an international tribunal had adjudicated the law of genocide. While praised by many for pioneering multiple precedents in international criminal law, the Tribunal has drawn much criticism from Rwanda, whose traditional conceptualization of justice is restorative in nature, unlike the retributive standard the Tribunal upholds. This research project seeks to explore perceptions within the Rwandan legal community towards the ICTR and its international standard of criminal justice, with a broader eye on how such perceptions may affect opinions on the further development of international criminal justice standards. These explorations yielded a nuanced opinion of the ICTR informed both by tradition and by education, recognizing its shortcomings but appreciating what it is. Furthermore, these shortcomings seem not to have impacted the generally favorable regard for the principle of international criminal justice standards, if not their practice.