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Lessons for International Criminal Justice from Rwanda

Mark A. Drumbl

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

December 2002

Washington & Lee Public Law Research Paper No. 02-13

Genocide struck the tiny African nation of Rwanda in 1994. Since then, national, international, and foreign trials have labored under a heavy load. These trials have been assigned a tremendous amount of responsibility by their various pieces of enabling legislation. They valiantly have endeavored to discharge these responsibilities, which include an ambitious array of goals: reconciliation, deterrence, peace, justice, and the cultivation of a culture of human rights. This paper examines the extent to which these trials attain these multiple, and often overwhelming, goals. This, in turn, invokes a discussion of how the administration of justice for Rwanda can be ameliorated and, furthermore, the lessons that judicial experiences with Rwanda can offer for other postconflict societies.

To be sure, there is a duty to prosecute serious human rights abuses. This duty is to be welcomed. However, it cannot exist in the abstract. It must be operationalized on the ground and put in place among affected (and, thereby, afflicted) peoples. This is the level at which this paper aims to inform the debate, principally by suggesting how and why prosecutions could be informed by contextual implementation and design. Accountability for serious international crimes is - and normatively ought to be - a universal, cross-cultural notion. No culture welcomes endemic human rights abuses nor impunity for those who perpetrate such abuses. But accountability may be promoted in different ways in different places.

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Date posted: December 6, 2002  

Suggested Citation

Drumbl, Mark A., Lessons for International Criminal Justice from Rwanda (December 2002). Washington & Lee Public Law Research Paper No. 02-13. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=355300 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.355300

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Mark A. Drumbl (Contact Author)
Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )
Sydney Lewis Hall
Lexington, VA 24450
United States
540-458-8531 (Phone)
540-458-8488 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://law.wlu.edu/faculty/profiledetail.asp?id=11
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