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Pepperdine Hosts Delegate of Rwandan Officials

The School of Law and School of Public Policy (SPP) joined forces last week to host a delegate of Rwandan leaders, including the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama. The four-day visit served to strengthen ties between Pepperdine and the Rwandan government, which is served every summer by internships from students at the law school and SPP.

In a visit that included classroom visits and networking opportunities for students looking to intern in Rwanda, Karugarama presented a message titled, "Justice After the Genocide: Reconciliation and Rule of Law in Rwanda," to a packed out room of law school students in Mendenhall Appellate Room on the Malibu campus. He described to the audience the legal challenges faced by the country of Rwanda in the months and years after the genocide of 1994, in which an estimated 800,000 citizens were slaughtered.

"After the genocide there was no economy left, everything had been looted, and many civil servants killed," he remembered. "That was the challenge of the time: that so many people had been arrested, but we had no judges, no prosecutors, no investigators. How do you try suspects without these people? Do you hold them forever with no trial? Do you keep citizens in prison while training new judges and lawyers? We had 200,000 suspects, almost, detained and there was a cry for justice coming from all sides."

Karugarama went on to describe to the room full of law students that Rwanda decided to compromise between the needs of justice for the victims and justice for the detainees. The nation established a Gacaca court system, as a means of community justice, during which newly appointed judges with basic training assess the interactive court proceeding.

"The system was criticized for not meeting international standards, but what are the standards for a genocide, when there are no judges or prosecutors and you are holding suspects without trial? The law is an instrument, not an end and this was an inventive way of conflict resolution after the genocide," Karugarama explained.

Included in the delegate was Christine Mutimura, the principal state attorney at the Ministry of Justice; lawyer and lecturer Sibo Gahizi; and Rwanda Embassy representative Vianney Rurangwa. Alumnus Matt Mullarky (JD '10) also joined the group from Rwanda, where has spent the past year working on legal cases with the government following an internship. He had originally visited the East African country as an intern in the summer of 2010 with Pepperdine's Global Justice Program, through the Herb and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics.

"[This trip] opens up a lot of doors for students," comments Jay Milbrandt, the director of the Nootbaar Institute and the associate director of the International Human Rights Program. "They're much more eager now to continue working with Pepperdine and develop a deeper, more formal relationship with us. The sky's the limit in many ways in what we could develop with them."

For more information about the Global Justice Program's internship opportunities in Rwanda, contact Jay Milbrandt at (310) 506-4734 or visit the Nootbaar Institute's website.