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ICTR: Rwanda Tribunal Creates Rich Legal Precedent

New Book Organizes Decisions by Subject

NEW YORK - The important judicial decisions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have enriched the law on genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said today as it released a comprehensive digest with the judgments of the tribunal presented by topic.

The 500-page book, "Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: A Digest of the Case Law of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda," is oriented to practitioners, nongovernmental organizations, and academics working in the field of human rights. It will also be a tool for staff at institutions established to try such crimes, such as the International Criminal Court, as well as domestic judiciaries, Human Rights Watch said. It is available online and in print.

"The case law in this volume will provide guidance to judges and lawyers everywhere," said Jennifer Trahan, a consultant to Human Rights Watch's International Justice program and author of the book. "The tribunal's jurisprudence has been immensely important in defining the indescribably horrific crimes committed in Rwanda and creating a solid body of jurisprudence."

The Security Council established the Rwanda tribunal to hold to account high-level perpetrators of the heinous crimes that occurred there in 1994. Those prosecuted include senior political and military figures, as well as influential persons in the media and clergy, and a songwriter, who was found guilty of assisting the genocide.

Human Rights Watch said that it was unfortunate that the Rwanda tribunal's prosecutor did not charge those accused from all sides in the conflict, as the Yugoslav tribunal and the Sierra Leone Special Court did in the conflicts they addressed. The Rwanda tribunal's prosecutor failed to bring charges against members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which became the Rwandan Army, who had been implicated in war crimes. This failure jeopardizes the tribunal's long-term legacy, Human Rights Watch said.

The volume organizes the tribunal's decisions by topic, including war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, individual responsibility, command responsibility, sentencing, fair trial rights, evidence, appellate review, and guilty pleas.

"This book makes the important decisions of the tribunal uniquely accessible because it organizes the law by subject in one volume," Trahan said. The book also sets out how the law was applied to the facts of selected cases.

The digest is dedicated to Dr. Alison Des Forges, who was killed in a plane crash outside Buffalo, New York on February 12, 2009. Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch's Africa division for almost two decades, dedicated her life to working on Rwanda and was the world's leading expert on the 1994 Rwanda genocide and its aftermath.

Human Rights Watch issued a comparable volume in 2006 covering the judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.


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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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