Law Grad Finds Meaningful Work and Adventure in Africa

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Blanchard, Kylie
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Amanda Grafstrom, Class of 2007, entered the University of North Dakota Law School with vague plans of someday working in public interest or human rights. Following her graduation in 2007, her interest in this line of work was piqued by an internship in Sierra Leone. This experience eventually led to her work today as an Associate Legal Officer at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania; a job, although challenging at times, she finds both meaningful and rewarding. Amanda Grafstrom“After graduation and taking the bar exam I did an internship with the Office of the Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a hybrid tribunal set up to try those with the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the decade long Sierra Leone civil war,” says Grafstrom. “I spent an amazing three months in Freetown and met and worked with a lot of wonderful people.” Following her internship, Grafstrom, a Roseau, Minnesota, native, returned to her home state and worked in the Minnesota state court system. “While I appreciated the knowledge I gained and the people I met, I slowly recognized I was missing the professional fulfillment that came from working in such a unique and rapidly developing part of law.” An opportunity arose to return to Africa to again work in the field of human rights and Grafstrom jumped at the chance. “I am one member of the drafting team in the Karemera et al. case, which is also known as the Government I case and is one of the longest-running and most complex cases in the history of the ITCR,” says Grafstrom. “The bench is comprised of three judges, and while I work with all of them, I do most of my work with a Danish judge.” Grafstrom says the team she works with also includes two legal officers and four associate legal officers as well as interns throughout the year. “My job duties are to advise the Judges, in conjunction with the entire team, on legal issues that are raised in the course of the trial and to draft decisions on motions filed by the parties,” she notes. “We are also simultaneously preparing for the judgment drafting that will begin in earnest after closing arguments are heard.” Amanda GrafstromSynthesizing tens of thousands of pages of trial evidence is also a major portion of Grafstrom’s duties. She says this