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Working with Rwanda Tribunal, a formative experience that steps up Loretta Lynch to the Attorney General nomination

Loretta Lynch was nominated by Obama for the US Attorney general, a success that she believes was due to the experience she gained during her African sojourn mostly when she served as a volunteer legal advisor to the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda.

Training inexperienced lawyers serving at the U.N.established court who were given the task of prosecuting those responsible for the 1994 genocide gave Lynch a global perspective that sets her apart from most who have held the top U.S. law enforcement job.

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Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch shaped by work with Rwanda tribunal (Photo/Associated Press)

In a powerful speech four years ago, when she was sworn in for a second time as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch spoke movingly about how the Rwandan job shaped her as a person and as a prosecutor.

"My work there was defining for me in many ways," she said.

In 2005, lead prosecutor Stephen Rapp approached Lynch with a sensitive problem. A key witness in the genocide conviction of Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, the former Rwandan minister of culture and education, had recanted. Rapp wanted Lynch to travel to Rwanda to investigate whether the witness, identified only by the letters GAA, had been tampered with or pressured to change his story. L.A Times reports

Reports say that Lynch have traveled through the mountains to interview witnesses in the town of Gikomero, where Kamuhanda was convicted of organizing a Hutu mob, arming them with machetes and grenades, and leading them to the church mentioned by Lynch in her speech. Lynch showed a particular ability to establish a rapport with survivors, but also to be tough when dealing with hostile witnesses.

Lynch recalled the woman who survived an attack on her church by hiding all night under a pile of bodies, only to have her priest betray her the next day, and another witness who bent over during an interview to show Lynch the scar from a machete that almost cleaved her skull in two.

Based on evidence collected by Lynch and Cohen, GAA was charged with perjury and an investigator for Kamuhanda’s defense, Leonidas Nshogoza, was charged with bribing him. GAA pleaded guilty and testified against Nshogoza, who was acquitted on three of four charges but convicted of interfering with a protected witness.

Despite the hardships and emotional toll, Lynch has said her time in Africa did not make her cynical. Lynch’s Africa experience with international law could prove helpful in a job that has been transformed into one of the key national security portfolios in USA.

Emile Ndayambaje - Imirasire.com

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