Third-year law student Paul Petrequin is spending his final semester at Miami Law in an international externship with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. Petrequin is working with other support staff and assisting in drafting documents for ongoing and pending trials at the Tribunal.
"It's going to be a fantastic experience, both culturally and professionally," says Petrequin, who was accepted into the Tribunal only days after final exams concluded for the fall semester. "I had close to 800 pages of briefs and indictments to read before I even had a desk, so they are definitely not shy of having hefty expectations from the interns here. I've tailored my studies and extracurricular at Miami for exactly this, so I know I'm ready and I'm excited to get started."
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established in 1994 by the United Nations with the goal of bringing to justice those responsible for the murder of an estimated 850,000 ethnic Tutsis by the Hutu majority over the course of 100 days that same year. The crimes ended after the Hutu-led Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded from Uganda and was able to overthrow the interim Hutu government.
Since then, 82 people have been arrested and submitted to the court, and an additional ten fugitives have been captured and prosecuted in other countries. Petrequin has been assigned to assist on one of the remaining active cases.
"It's very exciting to be assigned such an active role and being able to contribute meaningful work from day one," Petrequin said. "Our team congregates almost daily for updates on progress and to share thoughts on what directions to take. I'm really fortunate to be able to help on a case currently in trial, especially because it's expected to conclude around April, so being able to watch the judgment and sentencing is going to be a great experience."
The interns at the Tribunal hail from all corners of the world and from varying educational and professional backgrounds. Their placement is spread among the three sections of the Tribunal: the Office of the Prosecutor, Defense and the Chambers. Petrequin is an intern in the Chambers section.
The interns will work directly with supervising legal officers in drafting and editing various legal documents to be prepared for trial or the appellate chamber. Last week, during an orientation ceremony, Petrequin and other Chambers interns were able to meet and speak with the current President of the ICTR, Judge Dennis Byron, as well as Judge Lee Muthoga, who presides over Trial Chamber II.
"It was a tremendous honor to be in the same room as the current President, and to learn from his insight and experiences here at the Tribunal," Petrequin said. "Their job here is almost done, so it's time to reflect and gauge on everything that has transpired.
With only two accused persons left awaiting trial, the Tribunal is expected to be closed down in the next few years, though an exact date remains uncertain.
"They shared some very human introspection about their time here and the direction international criminal law is taking," said Petrequin. "I'm very humbled to be a part of it."
Paul Petrequin. (Photo: Miami Law)