Pitt international law students get a behind-the-scenes look at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda during a trip led by Assistant Professor Charles C. Jalloh. Read full story here.
Brittany Conkle was thrilled to learn that she and other Pitt Law students on a class trip to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, would be meeting with the tribunal’s chief prosecutor.
“It isn’t every day that a person has the opportunity to meet with an internationally respected prosecutor and jurist and to soak up their knowledge and experience,” Conkle (’10) later wrote in an article for Jurist , the legal news Web site hosted at Pitt Law. “For a law student fascinated by international law and, specifically, the evolving state of international criminal law, this was big.”
On the other hand, Conkle wasn’t expecting too much. Pitt Law Assistant Professor Charles C. Jalloh, who accompanied Conkle and 10 other students on the March 5-14, 2010, trip, had warned that Chief Prosecutor Hassan B. Jallow was a very busy man—and the Pitt group, already enjoying unprecedented access to ICTR officials and court proceedings, was lucky to be meeting with him.
The ICTR was established by the United Nations Security Council to try those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which as many as a million people were killed. Chief Prosecutor Jallow faces a formidable workload daily.
“Knowing all of this,” Conkle wrote, “I assumed that the prosecutor would breeze in, briefly welcome us to Arusha and the tribunal, and then go about his busy day.”
But from the moment Jallow (“a tall man with traditional Gambian robes and an inviting smile,” Conkle described him) entered the conference room where the Pitt group was waiting, he put his nervous visitors at ease.
What was planned as a pleasant, perfunctory 20-minute get-together grew into a 45-minute briefing/question-and-answer session covering ICTR accomplishments and goals, and examining such complex issues as finding permanent homes for Rwandans acquitted by the tribunal; having been publicly accused of participating in the 1994 genocide, the few acquitted persons generally don’t feel safe returning to Rwanda.
Chief Prosecutor Jallow opened the session by asking students to introduce themselves. Conkle, the first to be asked, figured she would get by with simply stating her name.
But Jallow followed up by asking her, “And would you like to work in international criminal law when you finish your schooling?”
“I’d actually like to work here” at the ICTR, Conkle blurted out—and then cringed inwardly at what she’d said. Jallow just smiled and chuckled.
As it turned out, Conkle would fulfill her ambition: After graduating from Pitt Law, Conkle was hired as an intern in the ICTR’s Office of the Prosecutor.
Back in Pittsburgh, Professor Jalloh beams proudly as he describes Conkle’s accomplishment and those of:
• Andrew Morgan and Holly Christie, Pitt Law Class of 2011 students who interned in Tanzania with the ICTR’s Office of the Registrar during summer 2010; and
• Pitt Law graduate Amy DiBella, who also went to Arusha and was Jalloh’s research assistant, and who recently began an internship at the Office of the Public Counsel for the Defense at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“To be accepted for such internships is a great accomplishment,” Jalloh says, attributing it partly to the first-hand knowledge and contacts Pitt students gained from visiting the ICTR in Tanzania as well as from an earlier meeting with Chief Prosecutor Jallow when he visited Pitt Law in 2009.
“These internships are extremely competitive, because law students and law graduates from all around the world, from Harvard and Oxford and all of the leading universities, are applying for a very limited number of positions.”
Jalloh was recruited to Pitt Law in July 2009 to add further strength and depth to the school’s international law program. He has served as a legal counsel in the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Section of the Canadian Department of Justice and as the legal advisor to the Office of the Principal Defender (OPD) in the Special Court for Sierra Leone—the first such office in an international crime tribunal. In that capacity, he set up the OPD’s Hague office and played a key role in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Jalloh later clerked for two judges at the ICTR.
His scholarly works have been published in leading journals in his field and have so far focused on the Sierra Leone and Rwanda Tribunals and, more recently, on exposing the growing tension between Africa and the Hague-based permanent International Criminal Court. He is frequently invited to lecture on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Africa.
Pitt Law’s first-of-its-kind ICTR program was an optional independent-study component of Jalloh’s International Criminal Law Seminar, held during the University’s spring break. It was supported by Pitt Law’s Center for International Legal Education, headed by Professor Ronald Brand, which also provided fellowships for the participating students.
In addition to conferring with ICTR’s chief prosecutor, Pitt students met with other tribunal officials, Rwandan prosecutors, attorneys who serve as special assistants to the ICTR’s president and registrar, and other experienced lawyers and interns. They also got to meet with legal practitionersfrom other important subregional institutionsbased in Arusha such as the East African Court of Justice and the East African Law Society.
Helping to arrange the students’ itinerary was 2002 Pitt Law LLM graduate Evelyn Kamau, appeals counsel in the ICTR’s Office of the Prosecutor.
During the program, Pitt students attended the trial of Jean-Baptiste Gatete, a former Rwandan ministry director charged with genocide and various crimes against humanity in connection with attacks against Rwanda’s Tutsi minority.
Among the eye-opening aspects of the trial for Pitt Law students was observing how slowly ICTR examinations and cross-examinations must proceed.
“Witnesses, for the most part, testify in Kinyarwanda, the chief language spoken in Rwanda. Then their testimony is translated first into French, and then English,” Jalloh explains. “There is a considerable delay between the time a witness speaks and when you hear the translation through your earpiece, and then the testimony continues.
“It’s really striking, and it obviously has implications for why the tribunal is not proceeding as fast as some critics would like,” says Jalloh. “It’s just one example of the things that international criminal law students can fully appreciate only by experiencing them in an environment like the Rwandan Tribunal.”