Rwandan genocide tribunal to close in Arusha

International court in Arusha dissolved after 20 years.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha is being formally dissolved on 31 December, 20 years after it was established to try those responsible for the Rwandan genoicide which claimed the lives of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus between April and July 2004.

Around 80 per cent of the main suspects in the Rwandan genocide were arrested and faced trial at the United Nations court which, over its 20-year history, charged 93 people, convicted 61 and acquitted 14.

The court was responsible for convicting major figures involved in the Rwandan genocide such as military officer Ildephonse Nizeyimana, also known as the “Butcher of Butare.” In 2012 Nizeyimana was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes including the order to kill “several thousand civilians” in Burate in south Rwanda.

However critics of the tribunal claim it never tried any cases of crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), an armed group, comprising mainly Tutsis, which ended the genocide. The rebels were commanded by Paul Kagame who has been president of Rwanda since the 100-day genocide ceased in July 2004.

Critics also complained of the tribunal's slow pace and its $2 billion costs, believed to be the main reasons behind the winding down of the court, which was housed in the Arusha International Conference Centre.

Following the closure of the ICTR, investigations into those responsible for Rwandan war crimes will continue in Rwanda, and other countries where suspects fled following the genocide.