Promises of peace and reconciliation: Previewing the legacy of the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda

Rosemary Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predictions of the legacies of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals reflect far greater expectations for the impact of justice than earlier historical war crimes prosecutions. The most ambitious of these is the promise of peace and reconciliation. Its formal inclusion in the Security Council's mandate for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda converged with a modern discourse on war crimes prosecutions that infuses the ideals of Nuremberg with the revolutionary aspirations of the human rights movement in a new world order. Contemporary trends invest international justice with powerful assumptions about its capacity to transform post-conflict societies, as is reflected in the Tribunal's own presentation of its role for the future of Rwanda. Alongside the general assumptions regarding the political powers of international justice, are contesting perspectives that make specific allegations of the effects of its failings. Neither rigorously address causality, highlighting the absence of empirical research on international prosecutions and their impact on national communities. It is argued that ambitious expectations have generated ambiguous-and unrealistic- benchmarks for effectively assessing the record of a nascent international justice system. Viable benchmarks are necessary to ground external expectations, and to strengthen and focus institutional performance. To achieve this, expectations should adjust to the modest realities of delivering international justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-498
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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