Julia Lacovara '14: In Tanzania as the Rwanda Tribunal Wraps Up Its Work Prosecuting War Criminals


Julia Lacovara, a rising second-year UVA Law student, has been working as an intern in Tanzania at the the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

August 8, 2012

Postcard from Abroad

For the past six weeks I have been working as an intern in the Chambers section of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, located in Arusha, Tanzania. Arusha is a major diplomatic hub, located at the base of Mount Meru and a short distance from Mount Kilimanjaro.

Immediately upon arrival at the ICTR, I was assigned to a team that was working on the final phases of drafting the judgment for a former military official, Ildephonse Nizeyimana. Though the tight deadline meant working nights and weekends, sitting in court 10 feet from this genocidaire and watching him get life in prison for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity was an experience I will never forget. It was also exciting to know that I had helped draft part of the oral summary delivered in court that day.

After completing my work on The Prosecutor v. Ildephonse Nizeyimana, I was reassigned to the judgment drafting team for Augustin Ngirabatware (the former minister of planning), the only remaining ongoing trial at the tribunal. I was able to sit in court one day (frilly white neck tie and black robe included) to hear expert witness testimony, and I was excited to realize I could follow the proceedings in the original languages, French (defense) and of course English (prosecution, the witness, and the bench). I have now been assigned a paragraph of the indictment and I am really enjoying getting to work on a case at the very beginning of judgment drafting, because I feel as if I am helping to lay a good foundation.

Lacovara, in Chambers robes, in an International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda courtroom.

This is also an interesting time to be at the tribunal, as it will be shutting down soon. The Residual Mechanism, a novel protocol that greatly reduces the responsibilities of the tribunal, went into effect on July 1, and the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR and [the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] have been combined and are now located in The Hague.

I have been consistently blown away by the caliber of my co-workers, and I feel very privileged to work with such a talented and diverse group. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they are also the most hilarious and kind bunch of people I have ever met.

A herd of zebras in the Serengeti.

It hasn't been all work and no play, however. Because of our long hours of work on Nizeyimana, my team was given a few days off, and we made the most of them. We visited the nearby city of Moshi, where we swam in a pool and bought beautiful African fabrics to take to our favorite seamstresses in Arusha. We also went on a three-day safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, where we saw all sorts of African wildlife, including a lioness right next to our car. My favorite trip, however, was the five days we spent on the island of Zanzibar: beaches, hammocks, sushi, night markets, and twisted streets of old stone buildings with Islamic/Indian/British-inspired architecture. It was a truly unforgettable time.

"Postcards from Abroad" is an occasional series featuring news about students working in foreign countries over the summer.

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