A new film documents the role of Pepperdine Law School grad Pierre-Richard Prosper as successful lead prosecutor in landmark international case. By Jimy Tallal



Attorney Pierre-Richard Prosper shown speaking at the Pentagon. Prosper, a 1989 graduate of Pepperdine University Law School, won a landmark international case in 1997 as head of the team that successfully prosecuted rape as a war crime for the first time, in Rwanda.
The newly released documentary “The Uncondemned” recaps the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where a million Tutsi people were slaughtered by a Hutu majority government in just 100 days. The U.N. assembled an International Criminal Tribunal to investigate the genocide and appointed Pierre-Richard Prosper, a 1989 graduate of Pepperdine Law School, as lead counsel for the prosecution. The film was described by the LA Times as “anything but a dry recitation of legal facts,” with “thriller-type twists and turns.”
In an interview with The Malibu Times, Prosper described the course of events that took him from being a gang prosecutor in the Los Angeles County DA’s office to Rwanda in 1994.
He left the DA’s office for a job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“One day at a staff meeting, an attorney on a fact-finding mission for the U.N. told us what was going on in Rwanda,” he said. “I was shocked — I had no idea the genocide was taking place. I talked to him about my interest in doing something.”
Shortly after, the U.N. established an international tribunal to investigate the Rwandan genocide and Prosper was tapped by the State Department to go on a four-month assessment mission. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno’s office then assigned him as U.S. prosecutor on the tribunal.
“One year turned into three years - there was no way to get it done in a year,” Prosper recalled. “I started off as an assistant trial attorney, a No. 2 spot. When I got [to Rwanda], the tribunal was a mess - no materials, incompetent leadership. The chief prosecutor in the Hague put me in charge of martialing a trial when I was only 32.”
At first, Prosper said, “We weren’t aware of the massive sexual violence that took place during the genocide, and we began the trial without the sex and violence charges.”
All of that changed when a witness came forward and said they’d seen women being raped outside a mayor’s office.
“A lot of women we had approached before didn’t speak about it, because it was taboo,” Prosper said. “When we came around again, they found the courage to step up. The survivors trusted us to tell this story.”
The door to prosecuting rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity had opened for the first time.
“When you’ve been violated by 20 men, how can you be a complete human being? You’ve lost the ability to engage with other humans — you’re too devastated to contribute properly,” Prosper surmised. “A raped woman may still be alive, but not emotionally and spiritually. When you tried to talk to these women and looked into their eyes and saw the depth of pain and sorrow, they were like zombies. You saw how destroyed they were.”
Prosper successfully prosecuted rape as part of genocide in 1997 with the help of a small idealistic group of researchers and investigators. The landmark case, not widely known outside of legal circles, is often cited in international tribunals; international law textbooks use it as a case study.
He continued working for the U.S. government, traveling to countries like the Sudan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, serving as Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. In 2005, he joined the Arent Fox LLP law firm, and is a partner in the LA office.
“When I first went to Pepperdine, my plan was to become a corporate lawyer,” Prosper said with a laugh. But as a result of the “passion for public service” of the faculty and dean, he went in a different direction. “If I’d gone to a different law school, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“I’m still connected with the Pepperdine Law School — I still speak with students and share my experiences,” Prosper said. “I tell them that one person has the ability to go out and make a difference and there really are no limits.”
The co-director of “The Uncondemned,” Michele Mitchell, said she decided to “attack the issue” of rape in her next film after being outraged in 2012 at Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s statement, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
After six months of researching possible scenarios, Mitchell first learned about Prosper’s case from a human rights lawyer. “It was an undiscovered story,” she said.
“The Uncondemned” will be screened on Mon., Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m. by the Malibu Film Society at the Malibu Screening Room at 24855 PCH, followed by an audience Q&A with Pierre-Richard Prosper. Free admission.

USA : 'The Uncondemned' to be Screened in Malibu

A new film documents the role of Pepperdine Law School grad Pierre-Richard Prosper as successful lead prosecutor in landmark international case.

Attorney Pierre-Richard Prosper shown speaking at the Pentagon. Prosper, a 1989 graduate of Pepperdine University Law School, won a landmark international case in 1997 as head of the team that  successfully prosecuted rape as a war crime for the first time, in Rwanda.

The newly released documentary “The Uncondemned” recaps the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where a million Tutsi people were slaughtered by a Hutu majority government in just 100 days. The U.N. assembled an International Criminal Tribunal to investigate the genocide and appointed Pierre-Richard Prosper, a 1989 graduate of Pepperdine Law School, as lead counsel for the prosecution. The film was described by the LA Times as “anything but a dry recitation of legal facts,” with “thriller-type twists and turns.”

In an interview with The Malibu Times, Prosper described the course of events that took him from being a gang prosecutor in the Los Angeles County DA’s office to Rwanda in 1994.

He left the DA’s office for a job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“One day at a staff meeting, an attorney on a fact-finding mission for the U.N. told us what was going on in Rwanda,” he said. “I was shocked — I had no idea the genocide was taking place. I talked to him about my interest in doing something.”

Shortly after, the U.N. established an international tribunal to investigate the Rwandan genocide and Prosper was tapped by the State Department to go on a four-month assessment mission. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno’s office then assigned him as U.S. prosecutor on the tribunal.

“One year turned into three years - there was no way to get it done in a year,” Prosper recalled. “I started off as an assistant trial attorney, a No. 2 spot. When I got [to Rwanda], the tribunal was a mess - no materials, incompetent leadership. The chief prosecutor in the Hague put me in charge of martialing a trial when I was only 32.”

At first, Prosper said, “We weren’t aware of the massive sexual violence that took place during the genocide, and we began the trial without the sex and violence charges.”

All of that changed when a witness came forward and said they’d seen women being raped outside a mayor’s office.

“A lot of women we had approached before didn’t speak about it, because it was taboo,” Prosper said. “When we came around again, they found the courage to step up. The survivors trusted us to tell this story.”

The door to prosecuting rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity had opened for the first time.

“When you’ve been violated by 20 men, how can you be a complete human being? You’ve lost the ability to engage with other humans — you’re too devastated to contribute properly,” Prosper surmised. “A raped woman may still be alive, but not emotionally and spiritually. When you tried to talk to these women and looked into their eyes and saw the depth of pain and sorrow, they were like zombies. You saw how destroyed they were.”

Prosper successfully prosecuted rape as part of genocide in 1997 with the help of a small idealistic group of researchers and investigators. The landmark case, not widely known outside of legal circles, is often cited in international tribunals; international law textbooks use it as a case study.

He continued working for the U.S. government, traveling to countries like the Sudan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, serving as Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. In 2005, he joined the Arent Fox LLP law firm, and is a partner in the LA office.

“When I first went to Pepperdine, my plan was to become a corporate lawyer,” Prosper said with a laugh. But as a result of the “passion for public service” of the faculty and dean, he went in a different direction. “If I’d gone to a different law school, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

“I’m still connected with the Pepperdine Law School — I still speak with students and share my experiences,” Prosper said. “I tell them that one person has the ability to go out and make a difference and there really are no limits.”

The co-director of “The Uncondemned,” Michele Mitchell, said she decided to “attack the issue” of rape in her next film after being outraged in 2012 at Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s statement, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

After six months of researching possible scenarios, Mitchell first learned about Prosper’s case from a human rights lawyer. “It was an undiscovered story,” she said.

“The Uncondemned” will be screened on Mon., Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m. by the Malibu Film Society at the Malibu Screening Room at 24855 PCH, followed by an audience Q&A with Pierre-Richard Prosper. Free admission.