"The Uncondemned" tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice where there had been none. Up until this point, rape had not been prosecuted as a war crime and was committed with impunity. A courtroom thriller and personal human drama, "The Uncondemned" beautifully interweaves the stories of the characters in this odyssey, leading to the trial at an international criminal court--and the results that changed the world of criminal justice forever.
In 1997, an underdog group of lawyers and activists prosecuted rape as a crime against humanity. This is the against-the-odds story of their fight for the first conviction—and of the women who braved witness assassinations to testify.
In 1994, Pierre Prosper had 22 triple-murder cases on his desk at the Los Angeles District Attorney's hard-core gang unit. Sara Darehshori was about to start her first job at a law firm. Former Philadelphia public defender Patricia Sellers had just moved to Brussels to be with her new husband. Human rights activist Binaifer Nowrojee was working on her thesis. Lisa Pruitt was finishing her PhD. And then, two simultaneous genocides shocked the world.
Bosnia and Rwanda were resounding failures of UN doctrine. But the perpetrators had every reason to think they had gotten away with war crimes--none had been prosecuted since 1946. However, they hadn’t counted on the overwhelming power of Western guilt.
Two tribunals were set—sort of. When Sara Darehshori landed in Kigali, Rwanda in September 1995 to begin her job as an investigator, there was no one at the airport to greet her—she didn’t even know where she was staying, let alone working. She hitched a ride with a NGO to the nearest hotel.
In Brussels, Patricia Sellers thought she’d work as a “normal trial attorney” with the tribunals. But the chief prosecutor had another idea. He handed her the dossier on sexual assault. Although rape had been declared a war crime since 1919, it had never been prosecuted. That was going to be her job.
Binaifer Nowrojee was a researcher at Human Rights Watch, working in the women’s rights division. There were a lot of rumors about sexual violence during the genocide, but no firm numbers. Binaifer pushed HRW to send her to Rwanda, where she would end up writing the report-heard-around-the-world.
Pierre Prosper showed up just in time to build the case. And then suddenly the 31-year-old found himself in charge.
And Lisa Pruitt, age 32, was sent to do a special report for the tribunal about the possibility of pursing charges of rape as a war crime. She was devastated when the report was buried.
These were the leads who intersected on the way to making judicial history. They were between 27 and 34, making up international criminal law as they went along. They probably had absolutely no business being the leads on the first genocide trial in history, but there was no one else to do it. And as for tying sexual violence into the charges—no one was sure they could make it stick. The case at hand was a small-potatoes mayor who hadn’t raped anyone himself.
But then, three women came forward…and the world of criminal justice changed forever.