The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) were created to deliver accountability for the atrocities committed during Rwanda's genocide of 1994 and Sierra Leone's civil war of the 1990s. The capacity of these courts, however, like other international criminal tribunals, is limited in terms of the number of persons they can prosecute. If most perpetrators evade justice, the ability of international tribunals to deliver accountability may be seriously undermined. To mitigate this risk, national justice systems should deal with the perpetrators who are not addressed by international tribunals. When national systems do not do so (or fail to do so effectively), international tribunals are well placed to encourage (or improve) national atrocity-related judicial proceedings, thereby increasing their chances of delivering accountability.
This article assesses empirically the impact of the ICTR and SCSL on national atrocity-related judicial proceedings in their target countries, thus contributing to an overall assessment of these tribunals. The article also compares the national impact of the ‘pure international’ ICTR to that of the ‘hybrid’ SCSL and tries to identify features that affect the national impact of an international tribunal. Understanding the interactions between international and national justice systems, and the features that affect the national impact of international tribunals, is particularly important given the shift to ‘positive complementarity’ at the International Criminal Court.