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Public International Law Research

A guide that highlights resources and recommended strategies for conducting research on international law topics.

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Background & Structure

The ICTY was the first war crimes court created by the United Nations and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. It was established by the UN Security Council via Resolution 827. It dealt with war crimes that took place during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s. Established in May 1993, the During its mandate, which lasted from 1993-2017, it provided precedent-setting decisions on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The ICTY had limited jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for: (1) grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions; (2) genocide; and (3) crimes against humanity.


Locating Primary Law Material

ICTY Statute

Amended multiple times during the duration of the tribunal, the ICTY Statute provided the limited jurisdictional grants of power to the tribunal, including the authority to prosecute persons for violations of the laws or customs of war, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Although national courts and the ICTY had concurrent jurisdiction, the ICTY had primacy and requested that national courts defer to its competence.

ICTY Rules of Procedure and Evidence

The Rules of Procedure and Evidence were also amended multiple times throughout the duration of the tribunal. You can view all previous versions of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence on the ICTY's website.

Cases

The ICTY ultimately indicted 161 individuals and conducted 111 trials. 90 of those tried before the ICTY were convicted and sentenced. The ICTY website provides access to all of the underlying documents from those trials, along with video and audio recordings of the proceedings. Materials are organized by individual, so it is typically easiest to approach this research with the names of specific individuals in mind. You can also use the ICTY's interactive map to view the cases by the location in which the accused was alleged to have committed his crimes.

You can also obtain information on these cases through a variety of other resources, including:

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

Background & Structure

The ICTR was established in 1994 by the UN Security Council via Resolution 955. It was responsible for prosecuting persons involved in genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighboring countries between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1994. The ICTR was the first international criminal tribunal to deliver verdicts in relation to genocide, and the first to interpret the definition of genocide set forth in the 1948 Geneva Conventions. Since opening in 1995, the ICTR indicted 93 individuals, of which 62 were sentenced.


Locating Primary Law Materials

ICTR Statute

The Statute of the ICTR endowed the tribunal with the power to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law. More restrictive than the grant of authority in the ICTY Statute, this statute omits grave breaches of the Geneva COnvention of 1949 and has a temporal jurisdiction. You can view the statute at the ICTR's website.

ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence

The Rules of Procedure and Evidence were amended multiple times during the course of the tribunal. They can also be viewed at the ICTR's website.

Cases

The ICTR ultimately indicted 110 individuals and 62 of those tried before the ICTR were convicted and sentenced. The ICTR website (hosted by the UN's International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals) provides access to all of the underlying documents from those trials. Materials are organized by individual, so it is easiest to approach this research with the names of specific individuals in mind. You can also obtain information on these cases through a variety of other resources, including:

Other Criminal Tribunals and Related Organizations

UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals ("Mechanism")

General Functions

The United Nations Security Council created the Mechanism on December 22, 2010 via Resolution 1966 as a "small, temporary and efficient structure." The The Mechanism is mandated to perform a number of functions previously carried out the by the ICTR and ICTY. The Mechanism is resonsible for the following functions:

  • Tracking and prosecution of remaining fugitives
  • Appeals proceedings
  • Review proceedings
  • Retrials
  • Trials for contempt and false testimony
  • Cases referred to national jurisdictions
  • Protection of victims and witnesses
  • Detention
  • Supervision of enforcement of sentences
  • Preservation of archives

The Mechanism also provides access to ongoing cases in both the Yugoslav and Rwandan tribunals.


Other Examples of Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals

Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)

The SCSL was established in 2002 by the United Nations at the request of the government of Sierra Leone for a "special court" to address serious crimes against civilians and UN peacekeepers committed during the country's decades-long (1991-2002) civil war. The SCSL was empowered to bring charges for war crimes (violations of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions), crimes against humanity, other serious violations of international humanitarian law, and certain serious violations of Sierra Leonean law.

You can view the primary legal documents associated with the creation of the SCSL and its cases via the SCSL website.


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

The ECCC was established in 2003 after the Cambodian government requested the assistance of the United Nations to establish a court to try serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975-1979. The government of Cambodia insisted that the court use Camboadian staff and judges, rather than foreign personnel. The United Nations provides support with equipping the Cambodian legal system to prosecute individuals for international crimes. 

You can view the primary legal documents associated with the creation of the ECCC and its cases via the ECCC website.