The United Nations war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia today began a study into how best to manage their enormous archives and ensure they are accessible to all who need to use them.
An expert committee led by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), will investigate a series of questions, including whether to set up a joint archive for the tribunals, two separate archives or multiple archives.
The committee will also look at appropriate locations for the archives, their security and preservation, and how best to ensure that they are accessible to all, from the peoples of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to the UN to the wider international community.
Justice Goldstone said “the work of the independent committee is crucial for the preservation of the legacy of the two tribunals and for the victims, as well as for the future for international criminal justice.”
The archives are expected to be extremely large, with the Office of the Prosecutor of each tribunal already having several million pages of evidence, while the registries of the courts also hold tens of thousands of hours of videotaped courtroom proceedings.
Under the completion strategy that the tribunals reached with the Security Council, they are aiming to complete all trials at first instance by the end of next year and all appeals by the end of 2010.
To be based in The Hague, the headquarters of the ICTY, the expert committee is expected to consult with governments, civil society and relevant non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during the course of its work, while a dedicated team will focus on the archives of each of the two tribunals. The first interim report is due to be submitted to the tribunals’ registrars, who commissioned the study, early next year.