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About Utah: One million murders on docket for Y. speaker

Exactly what legal principles Hassan Jallow will choose to emphasize tonight at Sundance when he delivers the keynote address for the BYU Law School's second annual Orrin G. Hatch Distinguished Trial Lawyer Lecture Series is not known, but whatever they are, it's a good bet that five seconds into his remarks he will have his audience's full attention.

As chief prosecutor at the Rwanda genocide court in Arusha, Tanzania, Jallow has the daunting task of prosecuting one million murders.

Don't talk to him about a heavy caseload.

The murders took place in the central African nation of Rwanda, most of them occurring during the infamous Hundred Days of Slaughter from April 6-July 14, 1994. Of all the dark days of human depravity, few can compare with what happened in Rwanda when an extremist government coup made up of members of the majority Hutu tribe set out to exterminate the minority Tutsi tribe along with any moderate Hutus not in agreement with their idea of ethnic cleansing.

Day in, day out, Tutsis died at the rate of six every minute. They were shot, crushed, suffocated and hacked to death by thousands of machetes imported from China for that very purpose.

"We have reports of people saying they were tired after a day's work," says Jallow, who has taken a short leave from his prosecutorial duties to make his first visit to Utah, "that day's work was killing."

The Rwandan genocide stands as a graphic example of what can happen when one group of people manages through power and propaganda to completely dehumanize another group of people.

"They were told Tutsis were like weeds in a forest; they had to be eliminated or they would take over," says Jallow. "The propaganda was so intense, neighbors were killing neighbors they'd lived next to for years."

"A lot of good Hutus were killed as well," he adds, "anyone who would not go along."

By the time a measure of order was restored in midsummer, Africa was more than a million souls lighter.

Jallow, a native of the west African nation of The Gambia, has come to Utah at the invitation of Hatch Lecture Series chairman Jim Parkinson to help draw attention to the good that is being accomplished at what is officially called the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The United Nations, with strong support from the United States, helped set up the court in 1995 — the first internationally recognized such tribunal since the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials of 1945-49, which prosecuted Nazi war criminals.

To date, 26 leaders of the Rwandan genocide have been prosecuted (with three acquittals), 26 are currently being prosecuted, 17 are awaiting trial and 16 are still unaccounted for.

The trials, wading through and around language and cultural barriers, are taking great periods of time, and by necessity are limited only to the leaders of the killing. But justice, at least of sorts, is slowly but surely playing out, and to Jallow that's a beautiful thing. "Time and patience is the price you have to pay for justice," he says. "When you try them you can't behave the way they did.

"What we are doing in Arusha is an undertaking for everybody, not just those in Rwanda," adds the man charged with the daunting task of prosecuting a million murders. "Our message is that international justice is possible. We don't get many occasions to say that. I accepted the invitation to deliver that message here very, very gladly."

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to and faxes to 801-237-2527.