Scott Hanselman

Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 15 - The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

December 17, '06 Comments [1] Posted in Africa
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CIMG6488My sister-in-law manages the internship program at the UN ICTR here in Arusha, Tanzania. ICTR stands for International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Tanzania borders Rwanda, and the UN put the court here in 1995 after the 1994 genocide.

Interns at ICTR are lawyers or law students from all over the world who work here for three months or so doing the grunt work and a lot of writing. I won't try to rehash the genocide in this blog post, as many people smarter than I have already written about it much more eloquently than I could, suffice to say, it's incredibly moving, scary, overwhelming and difficult to deal with. If you think about it long enough, it can consume you - mostly because it's a horrible example of what humans are capable of. It's even more shocking that we (the world) are making similar mistakes in Darfur. Anyway, I'm not qualified to analyze such things, so I'll talk about what I do know, first-hand as we visited.

CIMG6495The internship sounds like a very interesting job, and made me wish for a moment that I was a lawyer. My sister-in-law has a number of great stories, including one about a 70-year-old retired lawyer who wanted to do the internship. There's no age limit, so I think it's great that all kinds of folks from all over are considered for the program. They do have a rule to limit the number of candidates from the same school at once, so they won't end up with, say, five students all from Princeton. This helps to keep the interns integrated and avoids the "clumping" and groupthink that comes with traveling to another country with a large group of people from your home country.

Security, as you would expect, is very tight, and we had to leave our passports at the front office and went through metal detectors. This is required of everyone, even if you just want to visit the restaurant on campus and have lunch. Folks were very kind, but prices in the restaurant were, shall we say, "international" in scope. ;) The food was great, and my sister-in-law took us on a complete tour to see not only her office, but also the large conference rooms where the Burundi peace talks happen and where the East African presidents walk when they come for negotiations and meetings.

The offices are actually inside of the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) in Arusha (map). There's three buildings, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Kilimanjaro, and the UN has leased all of Serengeti and half of Kilimanjaro, and local offices take up the other spaces.

We did get a chance to visit the ICTR Library. It's a specialized legal library that holds all public documents and transcripts (in English, French and Kinyarwanda) of the ITCR's affairs as well as references on other international criminal courts. (Apparently one of the most difficult things about the ICTR's work is the constant translations and employment of so many translators during the trials.) On the day we visited the library was full of folks doing research and very active when we were there. Apparently it's a fairly well thought-of library.

All in all, say what you will about the UN and their role globally, but this local office sure works very hard and it shows in the way they conduct their affairs. I saw a notice as we left that you can order the complete work product on searchable DVD.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monday, December 18, 2006 8:19:45 PM UTC
After watching Hotel Rwanda, an excellent flik, which I will probably be unable to watch again, I hoped something was being done. I hoped, but was more than doubtful. I am happy that this exists. It is amazing what terrible things we humans are capable of. Nice article!
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.