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5 ILSA J. Int'l & Comp. L. 359 (1998-1999)
Lessons from the Akayesu Judgment

handle is hein.journals/ilsaic5 and id is 405 raw text is: LESSONS FROM THE AKAYESU JUDGMENT
Jose E. Alvarez*
The judgment issued on September 2, 1998 by the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (hereinafter ICTR) finding Jean-Paul
Akayesu guilty on various charges of genocide and crimes against
humanity is likely to please those who have long struggled for the
progressive development and effective enforcement of international
criminal law.' This judgment, directed at the bourgmestre of the Taba
commune in the Prefecture of Gitarama in Rwanda, is the first international
conviction of an individual for genocide.2 Its symbolic significance is not
likely to be lost on international lawyers.
The Akayesu judgment makes a number of noteworthy determinations.
First, its crucial finding, that the killings of between one half and one
million people within Rwanda in the middle of 1994 were clearly aimed at
exterminating the group that was targeted and, given their undeniable scale
systematic nature and atrociousness, undoubtedly constitute genocide
within the traditional definition of that term as reflected in both the
Genocide Convention and the ICTR's statute should help to put an end to
debates in academic and policy circles on the nature of that massacre.
There have been some who have continued to assert that neither ethnic
cleansing in the Balkans nor the Rwandan killings of 1994 constitute
genocide because of the alleged intent of the perpetrators or because of the
identity of the victims targeted. Some have suggested, for example, that
since in both instances the perpetrators were primarily seeking to acquire
land occupied by others, neither the Tutsis nor Muslims (or other groups in
the Balkans) were ever really targeted for extermination. Others have
questioned whether the people killed in Rwanda in the middle of 1994,
namely Tutsis and Hutus regarded as sympathetic to them, were attacked
on the basis of ethnicity as opposed to their political beliefs. Yet others
*    Mr. Alvarez is a Professor at the University of Michigan Law School; Visiting
Professor at Columbia Law School. For a more detailed presentation of some of the arguments
presented here, see the author's articles, Rush to Closure: Lessons of the Tadic Judgment, 96
MICH. L. REV. 2031 (1998) and Crimes of State/Crimes of Hate: Lessons from Rwanda
(forthcoming YALE J. INT'L L. (Summer 1999)).
1.   See Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu, ICTR-96-4-T, Sept. 2, 1998 (carried on the
ICTR's web site at < www.un.org/ictr/english/judgement/akayesu.html >.
2.   The term genocide did not appear in the Tribunal's judgment at Nuremberg for the
major Nazi defendants, although the prosecution made reference to the term during those
proceedings and in its indictments. The later trials, in Germany, of Nazi defendants included
charges of genocide. See, e.g., STEVEN RATNER AND JASON ABRAMS, ACCOUNTABILITY FOR
HUMAN RIGHTS ATROCITIES IN INTERNATIONAL LAW 25 (1997).

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