An international criminal tribunal is a special court set up to prosecute international crimes. Such international prosecutorial courts are often set up to prosecute crimes coming out of a particular situation, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Others, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), are general courts created to prosecute particular types of international crimes.
International criminal tribunals are created with the purpose of prosecuting cases to which national courts are unable to devote their own resources. These courts are typically created by way of treaty and the signing countries agree to recognize and enforce the rules of the court. Generally, international criminal tribunals are devoted to prosecuting various human rights crimes such as genocide.
The International Criminal Court is an example of such a court that was created with the specific intent of trying crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC was founded in 2002 and is housed in The Hague, a municipality in the Netherlands that is home to the international courts of the United Nations. Countries may become members of the ICC through signing and ratifying the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document. The only way the ICC may exercise jurisdiction over a party is if he or she is a national of a nation that is a member or the alleged crime took place within the borders of a member nation.
From time to time, temporary criminal tribunals are established with the intent of focusing solely on prosecuting atrocities committed in connection with a particular event. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ITCR) is an international criminal court founded specifically to prosecute the parties responsible for the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, which encompassed a mass murder of an estimated total of 500,000 to 1,000,000 people. This particular tribunal has jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by the Geneva Convention that occurred during that time period. The ITCR is located in Arusha, Tanzania.
Another temporary international criminal tribunal created to address particular human rights atrocities is the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ITCY). The ITCY was created to try war crimes that occurred during the Yugoslav Wars, which lasted from 1991 to 1995. The ITCY is housed in the Hague along with the ICC but the two courts are not affiliated with each other.