International tribunals

The Security Council focuses on the issue of protecting civilians in armed conflict.

The principal judicial organ of the United Nations is the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In addition to the ICJ, there are various international courts, international tribunals, ad hoc tribunals and UN-supported tribunals (Special Court for Sierra LeoneExtraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia och Special Tribunal for Lebanon).

Ad hoc tribunals

Two ad hoc tribunals are the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The tribunals are subsidiary organs of the Security Council. They were established through resolutions adopted under chapter VII of the UN Charter. As such the tribunals were dependent on the UN in administrative and financial matters, although as judicial institutions they were independent of any State or group of States, including the Security Council.

The international tribunal of the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

The International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established in 1993 according to the Security Council resolution 827, S/RES/827(1993) for the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991.

The ICTY was the first war crimes court created by the UN and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. The ICTY tribunal was located in the Hague and closed on 31 December 2017.

The international criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established by the Security Council in 1994 through resolution 955 (S/RES/955(1994). The purpose of that was prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda during 1994. Annexed to resolution 955 is the Statute governing the tribunal for Rwanda. The ICTR tribunal is located in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania and closed on 31 December 2015. 

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT)

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) was created by the Security Council on 22 December 2010 in accordance to Security Council Resolution 1966: Establishment, Statute, and Transitional Arrangements, S/RES/1966 (2010). It is mandated to perform a number of essential functions previously carried out by the ICTR and the ICTY.

The IRMCT started operating on 1 July 2012 in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, and on 1 July 2013 in The Hague, the Netherlands. It operated in parallel with the ICTR and the ICTY, and continues to operate after the tribunals’ closure. The ICTR closed in 2015 with the ICTY following in 2017.

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) maintains the tribunals' websites with all information, reports and documents as part of its mission to preserve and promote the legacy of the UN International Criminal Tribunals.

More on UN and international tribunals

Report on the Security Council action protecting human rights and civilians in armed conflict is published in the annual report to the General Assembly in the series Official Records of the General Assembly. Supplement no. 2, Report of the Security Council.

The Security Council's annual report (supplement) to the General Assembly have the following documentary symbol:

A/ General Assembly

-/ session number

2/ current number

Ex. A/68/2 General Assembly, 68th session, no 2 = Report of the Security Council (for the year 2012-2013)

The supplements can be retrieved through United Nations Digital Library.

Documents dealing with the work of the tribunals, information about mandates, basic legal documents, cases and judgements, reports and publications:

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
UN Documents available online
Last modified: 2024-02-15