Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations

Accessing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)
by Gaelle Breton-Le Goff and Anne Saris


The idea of writing a guide on the rules of procedure of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) occurred to us when, through the testimony of human rights activists, we learned of the practical difficulties encountered by Rwandan victims and their grassroots organizations in gaining access to international justice. In view of the wide variety of problems victims experience in participating in the legal process, because of the ICTR's new and innovative mechanisms, we found it necessary to clarify its rules of procedure in order to make it easier for victims to access justice.

The goal of this guide is to give the victims of the Rwandan genocide and their organizations the legal roots to actively participate in the process of international justice. We therefore decided to draft simple and clear guidelines that respond to five practical and basic questions: Where to go? Who to contact? What to do? How to do it? and When to do? While legal documents were our principal sources, we kept in mind the necessity to be understood by everyone. Therefore, we included references from legal texts and precedents from the ICTR and the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia) to provide a useful and effective base for any legal action before the ICTR. We also explained the concept of amicus curiae in detail because it is an important instrument for actions taken by civil society.

We strongly believe in the role of international justice as an instrument for peace, reconciliation, the social and economic rehabilitation of victims and their psychological healing process. We also believe that, as citizens, we have a duty to act on the national and international level in order to improve the situation of our contemporaries. We sincerely hope that this guide will help to achieve these goals. Gaëlle Breton-Le Goff and Anne Saris are Doctoral candidates, Faculty of Law, McGill University, Montreal, Canada and Founders of the McGill Doctorates Working Group on International Justice.

The ICTR's rules of procedure and evidence are subject to change in the future. This guide was written from the rules as modified in June 2000. To order a copy of the guide please consult the publications section of the Rights & Democracy Web Site.

Certainly, advances have been made in recognizing women’s rights. The legal framework is increasingly responsive to the experiences of women and girls in conflict, especially in cases of sexual violence, as we have seen in the important work being carried out by the international criminal tribunals. But there remains much to be done, particularly to improve prevention and to combat impunity.

-- Kofi Annan
October 28, 2002