U.S. Department of State, served on International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda
Seeking Justice for 800,000 Victims
About five years ago, Barbara Mulvaney ‘80 reached an unexpected crossroads in her career, which compelled her to apply for an intriguing job posting she found on the Internet: The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal handling the Rwandan genocide was seeking a prosecutor.
Mulvaney had years of experience on her side. Shortly after graduating from Southwestern, she landed a job working for then-Florida State Attorney General Janet Reno. She went on to establish her own private practice in New Mexico, and also worked for that state’s Attorney General’s Office as well as the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
She prepared for the job interview in Arusha, Tanzania, by reading everything there was to know about Rwanda. “They don’t generally hire Americans, but they said I was the best informed applicant they had ever met,” she recalled.
Mulvaney became a key player in what is considered the most ambitious war crimes tribunal ever convened when she was assigned to prosecute Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the accused mastermind of the Rwandan genocide. The tribunal was formed in response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, after President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down, pushing the long-brewing conflict between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis past the boiling point. During the next three months, the Hutus embarked on a tremendous campaign of violence against the Tutsis. An estimated 800,000 were killed, including female Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana.
“Everyone back in the U.S. and all over the world saw it as chaos,” Mulvaney said. “But it was not chaos. It was all planned.” This became her mission – to prove that Bagosora, along with three other high-ranking military officials, orchestrated the massacre.
Each morning, Mulvaney meets with her team – which consists of just three other lawyers – to prepare for the court day ahead. She typically arrives at the office at 7a.m., and doesn’t leave until 7 p.m. While she admits the experience has been trying, it is also clear that she relishes the intensive work.
In fact, it was the rigorous pace of Southwestern’s SCALE program that attracted her to the law school in the first place. She praised the mix of conceptual learning andskills-oriented instruction she received in SCALE, and singled out Evidence as particularly crucial to her career.
Prosecuting Col. Bagosora and his alleged accomplices has been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, with some history-making moments wedged in between. General Romeo Dallaire, who headed the UN Peacekeeping mission in Rwanda in 1993, took the stand and testified against Bagosora. “We’re the only ones who had him testify,” Mulvaney said proudly, adding “I’m hoping we’ll have a judgment by spring 2007. It’s just a real privilege to be part of [this historic tribunal]. We are there in a UN court holding these criminals accountable. No one has done that before.”