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"There is no den the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime and the Earth is made of glass."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the fall of 2010, the Houston Journal of International Law hosted a symposium at River Oaks Theater featuring a documentary called Earth Made of Glass, directed by Deborah Scranton. Following the film, the Journal hosted a panel discussion with Ms. Scranton as well as Professor Ved Nanda from the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law, Professor Jordan Paust from the University of Houston Law center, and Professor Betcy Jose-Thota from the University of St. Thomas.

The movie tells the story of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide from both a political and personal perspective and how the tragedy is still deeply rooted in Rwanda over fifteen years later. Ms. Scranton follows Jean Pierre Sagahutu, an everyday worker, in his search to find and confront his father's killer. He wants to learn the truth and details of his father's death so he may finally have the satisfaction of certainty. Parallel to Jean Pierre's personal search for truth, Ms. Scranton also follows President Paul Kagame's political search for truth following his release of a report that indicates French officials' involvement in the 1994 Genocide. Following the report's release, Kagame's closest aid was arrested in France on charges of terrorism.

Jean Pierre's personal search for the truth of his father's murder partially stems from the informal "community courts" where Rwandan villagers openly participate, often gathering outside in a circle, to identify and judge persons who participated in the Hutu's genocide of the minority Tutsi tribe. Offenders are offered reduced sentences for confessing, telling the truth, and seeking the families' forgiveness.

The "community court" system was implemented by President Kagame as an attempt at reconciliation and to bring former Hutus and Tutsis together peacefully, not as separate tribe members, but as Rwandans. The movie closes with such a hope for the future, and Jean Pierre's son identifies himself, his family, and his friends as "all Rwandans."

Following the movie, the academic panelists and Ms. Scranton engaged in a lively discussion regarding the effectiveness of President Kagame's "community courts" as opposed to more formal judicial proceedings and/or international tribunals. Particularly, our academic participants pointed to the success of international tribunals, cooperation, and humans' rights oversight, and the future that such programs might have in Rwanda in addition to President Kagame's internal policies. Ms. Scranton furnished the many law students, lawyers, and other audience members a "boots on the ground" perspective and stood by President Kagame's policies and plans for the future. The one thing that all of our panelists agreed on was that Rwandans must never forget the tragedy that is behind them and must focus on sustaining peace in the future, not as Hutus and Tutsis, but as Rwandans.

This issue of the Houston Journal of International Law focuses on many of the underlying topics of the film Earth Made of Glass and the panelist's discussion following the showing.

The Journal extends its warmest regards to Professors Nanda, Paust, and Jose-Thota for their participation in the panel discussion following the film, answering student's questions, and their ongoing contributions to this or other issues of the Journal. The Journal especially thanks Ms. Scranton for traveling to Houston allowing the Journal to showcase her film as part of its Symposium on human rights and this issue.

W. Robert Hand

Editor in Chief, Board 34
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Author:Hand, W. Robert
Publication:Houston Journal of International Law
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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