Hassan Bubacar Jallow is the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the court established by the United Nations to try those responsible for the Rwandan genocide in 1994, as well as other serious violations of international law in Rwanda. He has held this position since 2003.
Jallow was born in a small village in The Gambia at a time when only about 10% of the country was literate. Although his parents were not formally educated, his father was an avid reader and author, and both parents believed in the importance of education and sending their sons through school. Jallow had a passion for learning from an early age, and before he was enrolled, he would sit outside the classroom at the local primary school to listen and try to write what the class was learning. When his older brother began high school (at one of only two in the entire country), Jallow would read and study the books his brother brought home. At that time, there was no electricity in his village, so he read by candlelight, hurricane lamps, and firelight.
After completing high school himself, Jallow went on to study law at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the Nigerian Law School, and University College London. Following his education, he returned to his home country of The Gambia, where he worked as State Attorney, Solicitor General, Attorney General, Minister of Justice, and a justice of the Supreme Court.
His accomplishments outside of his home country include helping to draft the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (adopted in 1981), serving as chair of the Governmental Working Group of Experts on Human Rights for the Commonwealth of Nations, as an Under Secretary General for the United Nations, and as a judge of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Before he was appointed chief prosecutor of the ICTR, he worked as an international legal expert for the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia.