Case 349 - Universal Jurisdiction and the Rwandan Genocide: Global Justice or Vigilante Politics?
Eric K. Leonard
On June 8, 2001, a Belgian court found Alphonse Higaniro, Vincent Ntezimana, Sister Gertrude, and Sister Maria Kisito guilty of crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Although all of the accused lived in Belgium at the time of their arrest, none of the Butare Four (as they are commonly known) were Belgian citizens, none of the victims were Belgian citizens, and none of the crimes were committed on Belgian soil. The trial and prosecution of the Butare Four appears to be a case of pure universal jurisdiction; one of the few in human rights’ legal history. The unique nature of this trial and the subsequent political fallout makes this an interesting case for understanding what the future of international justice might look like, along with an examination of sovereignty and authority in the global community. This case explores questions of international law and politics in response to one of the most horrifying episodes of the 20th century.