Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


International tribunals worth the time

Journalist Thierry Cruvellier spoke on campus Wednesday night about how international criminal tribunals can create justice for victims in countries that have experienced war crimes. While most of the earlier courts only had international members, now there are efforts to include citizens from the actual countries.[/media-credit]

Focusing on the workings of international criminal tribunals in countries such as Cambodia and Rwanda, an international journalist told a University of Wisconsin audience Wednesday the results are worth the wait.

Thierry Cruvellier reported on the International Justice Tribunal in Rwanda from 1997-2002 and said the courts are mechanisms of justice used after severe war crimes and genocide in countries such as Rwanda.

While the courts seem good on their face, he said they should not be regarded as inherently good, because they cannot solve all problems for countries.


“In the political world we’re living in, you’re not going to have easy answers,” Cruvellier said.

International criminal tribunals are an important mechanism of transitional justice by which countries transition from war to peace, he said.

Cruvellier said the first few courts were fully international, with no members from countries where the crimes happened.

Because these first courts contained all international members, they were disconnected from the crimes committed, which was exacerbated by the fact many of the earlier courts were also held outside the country where the violation occurred, Cruvellier said.

There is now an effort towards re-nationalization, in which the newer courts are mixed, with shared responsibility between citizens and international participants, Cruvellier added.

Cruvellier also said the length the courts last is something the United Nations did not expect, one more thing the U.N. is learning from.

The U.N. mandated the earliest courts established in Rwanda and Yugoslavia in the early 1990s to last only four years, but they are still in existence today, he said. The courts are expected to last at least twenty years now.

The drawn-out court process has made questions of justice more difficult to discern, he said.

“What is the right time for justice? This is a huge question that I don’t have an answer for,” Cruvellier said.

Despite time and international court members adding distance to the crimes, Cruvellier said these tribunals can still be considered political transitions.

He used the example of Rwanda, where mass murder was followed by mass justice when more than one million people were prosecuted for the human rights violations that occurred there 20 years earlier.

Cruvellier said the four main methods of transitional justice currently in use are trial, truth seeking, reparations and vetting.

He said vetting is when state institutions are purged of military members involved in crimes without trying them in court.

Even with the presence of tribunals, Cruvellier said the damage has already been done.

“There will never be an answer that is satisfying enough for the victims,” Cruvellier said.

UW graduate student Aliza Luft said she enjoyed the talk and thought learning about issues such as criminal tribunals is an important part of being a good citizen.

“We don’t fully recognize countries with so much political clout affect the politics of other nations,” he said.

UW senior Carolyn Lucas agreed and said understanding world-wide issues will help people understand their own countries better.

“Theses lectures help us understand what is going on in our own country,” Lucas said. “If we can learn from other people’s mistake that can be very helpful.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *