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It’s been 16 years since Rwanda was torn apart by genocide, but a group of students from Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law are traveling to the African nation to learn about its reconciliation efforts and the role the legal system plays in the aftermath of mass killings. The 18 students making the nearly two-week trip will meet with Rwandan law students, government officials and attorneys, and they plan to visit the United Nations-established International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is located in Tanzania. “We focus on human rights and mass atrocity,” said Cardozo professor Sheri Rosenberg, who is leading the trip. “With that focus in mind, Rwanda is a very interesting spot for our students.” Rwanda erupted in violence in 1994, when upwards of 500,000 of the nation’s Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed by the Hutu-controlled government and Hutu citizens. The country is now in the process of rebuilding and reconciling. Unlike the Holocaust, in which victims and perpetrators largely went their own ways after World War II, Tutsis and Hutus continue to live side by side, complicating efforts to attain national unity, Rosenberg said. The goal of the trip is twofold. Rosenberg said she hopes visiting Rwanda in the aftermath of genocide will prompt students to remain interested and engaged in human rights issues around the globe, even if they continue on to jobs not involving public interest or human rights law. Additionally, the students are drafting a set of recommendations for the Rwandan government, the U.S. government and the international community that address the reconciliation effort and elaborate on what those entities can do to further bolster unity. The students hope to have their recommendations completed by the summer. This is the second time that Cardozo students have traveled to Rwanda. Another group visited the country in 2008, during which a daylong outing with children left orphaned by the earlier genocide proved to be an emotionally heavy but rewarding experience for the law students. In the spring of 2009, the school held a conference on the reconciliation effort. Rwanda is a particularly interesting case study for students because of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Rosenberg said. Similar courts are cropping up around the globe, and students will have the chance to see how the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda affects the lives of Rwandan citizens. That tribunal is in the process of wrapping up its work; thus it is the last chance for students to see it in action, she said. The Rwanda trip was organized by Cardozo’s Program in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies, which seeks to highlight the atrocities of the past as well as offer legal education, research and advocacy on genocide prevention and other human rights issues. Rosenberg said she is interested in taking students to Kenya or Ethiopia in the future.

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