Interning for Chief Justice Prof Sam Rugege has proven to be an extremely rewarding experience. My primary duties have included: editing criminal, civil, and administrative case law, recently translated from Kinyarwanda to English; conducting comparative law research for the Chief Justice on the topics of female land inheritance rights and legal mechanisms in place to combat gender-based violence in sub-Saharan Africa; and recently, I have been working on updating the rules of procedure for the Court and the manual on trial procedure and court administration for Rwanda.
I have also had the opportunity to be able to sit in on one of the hearings for Leon Mugesera. He was recently extradited from Canada and is on trial in the High Court for inciting genocide because of a speech he delivered during a political rally in 1992. The prosecution has already started calling some of the 200 witnesses that will serve to establish the effect that the speech had on inciting genocide (the speech was recorded and has already been analyzed by experts who confirmed it was the voice of Leon Mugesera). I was lucky enough to have one of my Rwandan co-workers attend the hearing with me, who translated the proceedings from Kinyarwanda to English.
One of my fellow interns from Tulane University School of Law and I were able to take some photographs in the lower court. The black robe is the required attire for prosecutors and advocates to wear in court. Also, advocates (for the defendants) are not allowed to address the court, they serve solely as advisors to the defendants, who must argue to the court on their own behalf.
As a final cultural note:
When washing your hands in Rwanda, always make sure you check to see if the sink water is running before you soap up your hands. As a follow up to this, if the water is not running – make sure you turn the faucet handle completely off. If you forget, the building may flood. And no, I didn’t do this! It happened two floors above me.