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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Clerking at the Supreme Court of Rwanda

Peter Depew
Kigali, Rwanda

My Pepperdine School of Law colleague and I have been tasked with researching the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda at the behest of The Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rwanda, for whom we are clerking.

The ICTR has been a contentious subject in Rwanda since its creation in 1994. After initially calling for a tribunal to investigate crimes against humanity occurring during the genocide, Rwanda used its vote as a non-permanent member of the Security Council to vote against UNSCR 955, citing primarily the limited temporal scope and resources of the tribunal.

Segments of the Rwandan population were further displeased when the ICTR announced that its headquarters would be in Tanzania and not Rwanda, and that all those convicted would be imprisoned outside Rwanda. Further, the slow pace of the tribunal and the comfortable living conditions of the indicted have been the subjects of criticism in Rwanda.

As we sit in the third floor of the Supreme Court tower in Kigali, the bustling heart of Rwanda located in the nation's center, Deputy Chief Justice Rugege has asked us to research how to encourage the transfer of cases from the ICTR to the Rwandan judiciary, which has concurrent jurisdiction but not primacy. The ICTR has a mandate to complete all work by 2012 but may not be able to make this deadline. This makes transfers to Rwanda more attractive. Yet to date, there has not been a single successful transfer even after Rwanda abolished the death penalty nationwide to encourage transfer.

The consensus among official sources in Rwanda is that the national judiciary is now ready to try these complex cases and that sucessful transfers from the ICTR will further help rebuild the rule of law and Rwandan autonomy. We will have to wait and see where our research arrives.