Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Rwanda Crisis and Genocide in Case Law of Rwanda Tribunal

Arto Kantonen

Master's thesis, April 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law, Department of Public Law.

After the Second World War the public was shocked to learn about the horrors perpetrated. As a response to the Holocaust, the newly established United Nations adopted the Genocide Convention of 1948 to prevent future genocides and to punish the perpetrators. The Convention remained, however, almost dead letter until the present day.

In 1994, the long-lasted tension between the major groups of Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda erupted in mass scale violence towards the Tutsi ethnic group. The purpose was to eradicate the Tutsi population of Rwanda. The international community did not halt the genocide. It stood by idle, failing to follow the swearing-in of the past.

The United Nations established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (the ICTR) to bring to justice persons responsible for the genocide. Ever since its creation the ICTR has delivered a wealth of judgements elucidating the legal ingredients of the crime of genocide.

The case law on determining the membership of national, ethnic, racial or religious groups has gradually shifted from the objective to subjective position. The membership of a group is seen as a subjective rather than objective concept. However, a totally subjective approach is not accepted. Therefore, it is necessary to determine some objective existence of a group.

The provision on the underlying offences is not so difficult to interpret compared to the corresponding one on the protected groups and the mental element of genocide. The case law examined, e.g., whether there is any difference between the words killing and meurtre, the nature of mental harm caused by the perpetrator and sexual violence in the conflict.

The mental element of genocide or dolus specialis of genocide is not thoroughly examined in the case law of the ICTR. In this regard, reference in made, in addition, to the case law of the other ad hoc Tribunal.

The ICTR has made a significant contribution to the law of genocide and international criminal justice in general. The corpus of procedural and substantive law constitutes a basis for subsequent trials in international and hybrid tribunals. For national jurisdictions the jurisprudence on substantive law is useful while prosecuting international crimes.

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Last updated 03.05.2006

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