The HOPE Fellow had applied to several international tribunals at the beginning of his third year. None responded. Then, as he registered for classes, studied for exams, and prepared for a final semester in Miami, he received his acceptance letter to the Tribunal on December 10th.
"It really all came together at the last minute," said Petrequin who credits the support of faculty, friends and assistance from the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center for helping him to transition. In three short weeks he moved from Miami to Africa where he was going to assist in cases that have played a major role in bringing justice to the war-torn region.
The ICTR was established in 1994 by the United Nations in response to the genocide of an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis by the Hutu majority over the course of 100 days. The war ended after the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded from Uganda and was able to overthrow the interim Hutu government.
"It's amazing to be a part of such an organization, but there are mixed emotions with the casework and reading about what allegedly transpired that created the Tribunal," Petrequin said.
Throughout law school, Petrequin pursued his passion for international and humanitarian matters. He spent Spring 2010 studying in Tokyo, Japan. He spent two years as a member of the International Moot Court Board Pace Team. He was also an International Law Society member and prides himself in the fact that he took a class in nearly every international subject offered at the law school. In 2011, he graduated with a certificate in International Law.
Marni Lennon, Director of Miami Law's HOPE Public Interest Resource Center commended his commitment to helping others. "From volunteering to advocacy projects and study abroad, Paul continues to avail himself of opportunities locally, nationally and internationally," said Lennon.
Previously, another HOPE Fellow Lara O'Neill – also a Miami Law alumnus and former Director of International Public Interest Programs – interned for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in her last semester.
"He follows wonderful HOPE Fellows as an ambassador from Miami Law to the UNICTR."
While in Africa, Petrequin was assigned a case with four accused Military 2 (Mil 2). The defendants constituted some of the higher echelons of the Rwandan military structure.
"They definitely weren't shy about throwing interns into the mix," Petrequin said. "I had been in the country for less than six hours and slept for maybe four in the last 24, and as soon as I walked in, they had a stack of papers for me to read to get caught up." He laughs remembering the moment. "I told them to keep it coming."
Petrequin also assisted in writing and revising drafts of factual and legal findings for the judgment, specifically in the weeks leading up to the genocide. This entailed reviewing dozens of witness testimonies, experts' reports, and evidentiary exhibits in order to make sure everything had been recorded. A tedious task he admits, "but our diligence paid off and the judges certainly appreciated our efforts."
"I found the assignment to be surprisingly enjoyable, as it mirrored much of the work I had done in the Fall during my previous externship at Swartz & Lenamon," Petrequin said, noting the compilations of aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
While Petrequin spent much of his law school career traveling the world, he jokes that confinement to a cubicle for the next two months for Bar preparation is karmic justice.
Next, Petrequin would like to pursue international criminal and humanitarian law opportunities, and has also applied to the JAG Corps and other government organizations.
"Miami has helped open doors for me I never thought possible," said Petrequin.
The site where ten Belgian peacekeepers who were assigned to protect Rwandan Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana (who herself was murdered in the first hours of the genocide) were disarmed and brought to Camp Kigali in Rwanda. The peacekeepers were massacred by Rwandan genocidaires. The site has since become a memorial to them, though evidence of what transpired remains. (Photo: Provided to Miami Law) Full-Size Photo