William and Mary Law School

Safari Weekend

A lion at the Serengeti

This past week I was busy with both work and travel.  At the UN ICTR this week our team continued to work on the Final Judgment for the Munyakazi case. We are finishing up the second draft of the judgment and we are still hoping to deliver the oral judgment by the end of June and the final written judgment by early July. A lot of the work I'm doing includes editing different sections of the judgment for consistency and cite checking to make sure all the footnotes are correct. What I find different at the ICTR from past cases Ive read in law school is that the law is fairly unambiguous and not very contested at trial. However in order to obtain a conviction for genocide, cases usually hinge on which side's witnesses are more credible. Since the burden of proof rests with the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, it is crucial that they are able to convince the Judges that their witnesses are more credible then the defenses witnesses. Now that I've been at the UN for a few weeks and have read several witness testimony transcripts many of the witnesses have a propensity to forget details or embellish facts and even lie at times. The Judges must weed through the testimony to determine which witnesses are credible. Almost all the evidence comes from witness testimony and there is little hard evidence. Whether the accused can be found held guilty for genocide really depends on what witnesses the Judges believe which often can be a daunting task and a source f debate. This is one reason why there are some cases that have been going on for almost eight years.

After a four day work week, I woke up early on Friday to begin a 3 day safari with five other interns, which I have been eagerly anticipating since arriving in Tanzania.  On the safari we were planning to visit the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National parks. Both parks are very unique, the crater is collapsed caldera and much greener, smaller and mountainous then the Serengeti. The Serengeti is a 144,000 square km endless savannah that houses a dense amount of animals. On our safari we were lucky to see all of the Big 5 animals (hippos, lions (both male and female), elephants, a rare leopard and rhino). We also got to see a cheetah very up close. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was far more interesting than seeing them caged up in the zoo. Also the landscape and backdrop were really amazing and something you cannot see anywhere in the world.  

On Friday we drove through the Crater to the Serengeti Park where we did a game drive and then camped out in the middle of the Serengeti Park. People at night said they heard hyenas walking around the campsite but after a long day I was very sleepy and luckily didn't hear any of the animals. The next morning we completed another game drive and saw lion cubs, a leopard, hippos and elephants. After packing up our stuff and going on another game drive we went back to the crater and setup camp there. We were on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater and it was freezing cold, luckily I brought some warm weather clothes so I slept fine. In the morning we went into the crater which was an absolutely amazing sight. On the way down to the crater was a little scary since there were no guard rails and the decline was very steep. While in the crater we saw a male lion which is very rare and saw one of the 22 rhinos they have in the 8,000 square km park. Every safari car in the park came rushing over when the black rhino became visible. After our drive in the crater we had lunch, packed our stuff up and headed back to Arusha. After camping for 2 nights I was definitely ready to head back to civilization and take a warm shower.

Seeing the landscape and all the animals in the Serengeti and Crater was really amazing and an experience I will never forget. If anyone has the chance to see the Serengeti they really must go. Until next time!