The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: A Distorting Mirror; Casting doubt on its actor-oriented approach in addressing the Rwandan genocide

  • Jackson Nyamuya Maogoto


The traditional approach to criminal justice faces the challenge of balancing multiple goals – usually expressed as deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and retribution – which focus on crime control. A restorative approach seems needed in all societies that have suffered massive and collective victimisation, and must be kept in mind in Rwanda by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as it implements its overall strategy.The ICTR’s almost exclusive focus on an actor-orientated perspective, viewing the individual as a building block of the genocidal reality, distorts and obscures a structure-orientated perspective on the ethno-centric social reality that converted tens of thousands of Hutus into a mass of killers, turning on their friends, neighbours and colleagues. The main focus for the punishment of war criminals must remain at the national level, although the existence of an international tribunal legitimises the criminalisation of internal atrocities. The ugliness of internal strife and the political reality of the ethnic hatred cannot be isolated in an international courtroom for resolution.

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eISSN: 1562-6997