Skip to Content

Stories from our Travelers

International Justice and Rwanda

by Melissa Cicci

[From Summer 2008] The small city of Arusha in northern Tanzania is a jumping off point for many travelers to the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro and safaris in East Africa. But there is another, perhaps more compelling reason to visit this small outpost in Tanzania. The United Nations Security Council in late 1994 designated Arusha as the seat of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Like Nuremberg before it, the ICTR’s mandate is to prosecute war crimes, specifically the prosecution of people responsible for genocide and other violations of humanitarian law perpetrated in Rwanda throughout 1994.

U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon last year remarked, “…As we mark the thirteenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, two messages should be paramount. First, never forget. Second, never stop working to prevent another genocide…our thoughts go the victims – the more than 800,000 innocent people who lost their lives with terrifying speed. May they continue to rest in peace. Our thoughts go to the survivors. Their resilience continues to inspire us.”

The modernist complex that houses the ICTR serves as both courthouse and detention center for those on trial. Visiting the ICTR is a sobering reminder of the 1994 events in Rwanda and an inspiring look at international justice in action.

Key players in the Rwandan genocide have been the focus of the Tribunal. Since the ICTR began its work in 1995, more than 70 people have been arrested, several trials have been completed and over 50 detainees await trial in Arusha. Among those with trials pending are former Rwandan Ministers of Health, Foreign Affairs and Commerce, religious leaders and high-ranking military leaders. All are men, with the exception of the former Minister of Family and Women Affairs. Thirteen key accused remain at large, whereabouts unknown.

Tribunal judges are elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations. No more than two judges may represent any given country. Currently, the ICTR's trial judges represent Saint Kitts and Nevis, Pakistan, Tanzania, Norway, Fiji, Madagascar, Russian Federation, Argentina, and Sri Lanka, among other nations.

To date, over 2000 witnesses (both defense and prosecution) have appeared before the Tribunal. From Africa, Europe and the Americas, witnesses are protected through a Witness and Victims Support Section. Maintaining their anonymity during and after trails, and by relocation when necessary ensures their safety and security. Courtrooms at the ICTR are often closed to the visiting public to protect the identity of witnesses.

The ICTR is nearing the end of its mandate. In 2003, the U.N. Security Council urged the ICTR to conclude all trails by the end of 2008. Recognizing that the time frame would be insufficient to complete its mission, the ICTR recently requested an extension through 2009 for trails and through 2010 for appeals. The U.N. in July granted the extension. Interestingly, Rwanda objected to the extension, suggesting that resources would be best directed toward Rwandan national courts, where lower-profile cases will continue to be tried.


Visiting the ICTR:
To learn more about the ICTR and its mission, go to A visit to the headquarters in Arusha may be arranged with an advance request. From the web site home page, click on “ICTR Forms,” then “Visit Request Form.”

How to Get to Arusha:
If traveling with any of the safari outfitters based in Arusha, the outfitter typically arranges transportation to this portal city. If traveling independently, there are several options for getting to Arusha. From Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s international gateway, there are regional flights on Precision Air, and ZanAir, Alternatively, it is possible to fly from Nairobi, Kenya to Kilimanjaro on Precision Air. From Kilimanjaro, bus or car service to Arusha may be arranged.

Melissa Cicci is editor of Beyond Doorways Travel.

website design studio x, santa fe a member of santa