Callixte Gakwaya

22.04.2010 ( Last modified: 25.05.2016 )
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Callixte Gakwaya was a Rwandan lawyer. He was defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTR) for Yusuf Munyakazi, a former Interahamwe leader and businessman from Cyangugu. Prior to this, Gakwaya was an official in the national sports ministry under Habyarimana.

On 28 February 2006, Gakwaya’s appointment to the ICTR garnered controversy when Rwanda’s reprensentative to the ICTR, Aloys Mutabingwa, revealed that Callixte Gakwaya was amongst the suspects of the genocide, according to a list released by the Rwandan government to Interpol.

When Rwanda launched this accusation, Gakwaya sought refuge in Mozambique. Following that, Rwanda delivered an international arrest warrant, transmitted to the ICTR and to Tanzania.

legal procedure

When Rwanda launched this accusation, Gakwaya sought refuge in Mozambique. Following that, Rwanda delivered an international arrest warrant, transmitted to the ICTR and to Tanzania.

On 1 September 2006, Callixte Gakwaya was arrested by the Tanzanian authorities.
Soon after, lawyers at the ICTR expressed their concern and emphasized that this arrest was contrary to the agreement between the ICTR and Tanzania. This agreement guarantees them immunity in the frame of their activities.

A few days following this arrest, Gakwaya was released, which provoked a great tension between the Rwandan authorities and the ICTR, despite the ICTR denied any involvement in this arrest.

Rwanda asked for the termination of Gakwaya’s contract, threatening to cut all contact and cooperation with the ICTR unless he was fired.

On 20 September 2006, the ICTR decided to revoke his contract as member of the defence counsel.

Callixte Gakwaya died on 14 September 2007.


Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.


In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR.  Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.


In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.