IRRC No. 321

A tremendous challenge for the International Criminal Tribunals: reconciling the requirements of international humanitarian law with those of fair trial

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The two International Criminal Tribunals set up by the United Nations Security Council in 19931 and 19942 are in the process of demonstrating that international repression of serious violations of international humanitarian law is no longer a purely theoretical concept. A total of 21 persons charged with or suspected of committing such breaches have been transferred to the seat of the Arusha Tribunal, and two judgments sentencing the defendants to prison terms have been handed down by the Hague Tribunal. The two Tribunals are competent to hear cases against persons allegedly responsible for serious violations of humanitarian law, but in so doing they are also required, under their respective Statutes, to ensure that the internationally recognized rules relating to the rights of the accused are fully respected at all stages of the proceedings. Article 20 of the Statute of the Tribunal for Rwanda and Article 21 of that of the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, modelled on Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, enumerate in detail the rights that must be accorded to every accused person.

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