Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Rwanda Gives Purpose to Life for Okla. Judge

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Rwanda Gives Purpose to Life for Okla. Judge

Article excerpt

Editor's note: This is the fourth story in a five-part series on Oklahoma's ties to Rwanda. See Journal Record Publisher Mary Melon's blog on the trip at http://blogs.journalrecord.com/rwandablog/.

Rwanda has given U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange purpose for later in her life.

"Because of my experience there, I know what I want to do when I'm an old, senior judge - I want to be involved in rule of law in developing countries," she said. "They are an amazing people, and I marvel at the sheer will and the commitment of those people. ... I commend them for their

capacity of spirit to get to where they are today."

Her first involvement with the beleaguered African country was through rule-of-law work on the International Judicial Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. In 1999, she was invited by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist to serve on the committee to help create self-sustaining legal systems and courts in developing countries.

Judges typically serve six years on the committee. During her tenure, Miles-LaGrange led a working group in Africa and visited Rwanda for the first time in 2001. She called the experience "a fascinating laboratory on the implementation of democracy around the world."

"Depending on whose numbers you accept, post-genocide there were less than 25 lawyers living in the country," she said of the killings of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans in 1994. "There was a whole nation on the brink of extinction."

She praised President Paul Kagame, who was elected in 2000, for leading his country into law reform, not an easy task in a country where authority has been enforced by violence and even the most basic human rights are ignored. During the period when Miles- LaGrange was working on the committee, there were about 100,000 people who had been charged with some way related to genocide but had never spent a day in court, she said. …

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