This Day in International Law–February 27

By: Sarah Ganty |

On 27 February 1995, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolution 978 on arrest and detention of persons responsible for acts within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). It was adopted on the basis of the final report of a Commission of Experts indicating that genocide and other systematic, widespread, and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law have been committed in Rwanda in 1994. To set the context, from April until mid-July 1994, the Rwandan Genocide was perpetrated against the Tutsi population and killed around one million innocent civilians, including Hutu and others who were opposed to the genocide. Resolution 978 is one in a series of resolutions drafted by the UNSC related to the Rwandan Genocide after its conclusion. Indeed, the international response to one of the worst mass slaughters in history arrived rather late.

Resolution 978 urges UNSC Members States to take and respect different measures on arrest and detention of persons suspected to be responsible for the perpetration of acts within the scope of competence of the ICTR. It also “condemns all attacks against persons in the refugee camps near the borders of Rwanda, demands that such attacks immediately cease, and calls upon States to take appropriate steps to prevent such attacks.”

It is worth noting that Resolution 978 follows the creation of the above mentioned ICTR by the UNSC on 8 November 1994 (Resolution 955 (1994)), which was set up to prosecute persons responsible for the Rwandan Genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed during 1994. It was originally issued for four years, but its mandate was prolonged. The ICTR was the first international tribunal to interpret the notion of genocide set forth in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and to deliver verdicts in relation to that notion. After twenty operational years and ninety-three indicted individuals, the jurisdiction is expected to close in 2015.

Sarah Ganty is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.  She is a contributor to Travaux.

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