Establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
I first became involved in the war crimes type of issues back in—I guess my interest first began in 1994. I was a federal prosecutor at that time in Los Angeles, and one of my colleagues had just come back from a trip into Rwanda. He was on part of one of the first original commissions that was put together to determine exactly what happened in Rwanda and whether or not it was a genocide. He came to my office, gave a presentation, and I was just taken back, in a sense, by what I heard. I was surprised and shocked as to the information I received about what actually happened in Rwanda; before, I thought it was just a humanitarian/refugee type crisis. And then, I was also surprised that as a lawyer, one was able to actually go out there, go out in the field, do some fact finding, make a difference, and let it be known exactly what people had done to their fellow human beings. From there, I approached my friend and asked him some information: we had a nice conversation, and he explained to me that the United Nations was establishing an International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute those responsible in Rwanda. He thought that I’d be a perfect fit for the Tribunal and I should apply. I have to be honest with you: at that time, I wasn’t quite ready. I just saw some slides of some horrific mass gravesites and a devastated country. But after thinking about it, I did make the call to the State Department and put my name into the ring. In March of 1995 I received a call from the State Department. They were looking for a U.S. prosecutor to go to Rwanda to do an approximately five-week assessment mission of the national justice system. The idea was to assess the system to see what the United States could do to help it get off the ground and prosecute the actual perpetrators—the people with the machetes and the hand grenades—of the genocide in Rwanda. On a parallel track, the United Nations would be creating a tribunal that would prosecute the orchestrators and the organizers of the genocide. I went on this five-week mission and found a devastated country. I saw buildings which just had potholes from grenades, bullet holes. I saw—I remember seeing just the signs that there were a struggle by the victims, such as blood marks, scratches, things of that nature; and I also saw some mass graves. I examined the justice system, and to be quite honest, it was nothing there. It was just empty buildings, broken chairs, broken windows. All the prosecutors, all the lawyers that were once part of the system, had either been killed—(clears throat) excuse me—or fled the country. I wrote my report, and I came back to the United States. I circulated the repot throughout the various agencies here in Washington. And about a week later, I received a call from the Department of Justice here, and they informed me that the United Nations had asked them to find a prosecutor to be assigned to the Tribunal, and they chose to send me.