International Criminal Tribunals

An outcome of the Columbia University Human Rights conference (Oct. 2007) was a recommendation that educational institutions with an interest in human rights teaching and research advocate that the U.S. take a position in favor of UN action to preserve the records of international criminal tribunals established by the United Nations to investigate genocide and other human rights violations in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, and other locations. Many of the courts have no mandate to preserve the sensitive and voluminous records of their proceedings for future use.

CRL continues to monitor the activities of the courts, the UN Working Group on Tribunals, and Advisory Committee on Archives, and will post updates in the HRADP community workspace.


* Update (12/22/10):  On 22 December 2010, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution S/RES/1966 (2010), establishing the international residual mechanism for criminal tribunals. The resolution:

  • recommends that the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (“the Mechanism”) be established with two branches, which shall commence functioning on 1 July 2012 (branch for the ICTR) and 1 July 2013 (branch for the ICTY).
  • establishes the seats of the branches in the Hague (for ICTY) and in Arusha, Tanzania (for the ICTR);
  • requests the Secretary-General prepare, in consultation with the Security Council, an information security and access regime for the archives of the Tribunals and the Mechanism prior to the first commencement date;
  • recommends the establishment of information and documentation centres in the countries to provide access to copies of public records of the archives of the Tribunals and the Mechanism, including through their websites.

The annexes to the Resolution firmly establish that the archives shall remain the property of the United Nations. The Mechanism shall be responsible for the management (including preservation, access, and security) of those archives.

* Update (12/2/09): The Secretary-General issued a report (S/2009/258) in May 2009 on the administrative and budgetary aspects of the options for possible locations for the archives of the ICTY and ICTR. The report states the case for the importance of the archives, provides a detailed description of the types of records generated by the Tribunals, and lays out the primary values and uses of such documentation. The report itself does not recommend a path for the residual mechanisms, but lays a case for various scenarios and resultant cost implications. These scenarios range from the minimal level of functions (trial of the remaining fugitives and maintenance of the archives) to the maximal level (multiple trials, protection of witnesses, etc). It also projects a scenario in which the archives are maintained separately from any other residual functions.The Report has been submitted to the Security Council for review.

* Update (12/19/08): The report of the Advisory Committee on Archives (ACA) was received by the Working Group on the International Tribunals, charged with considering the issues of the residual mechanisms of the courts. The (not publicly distributed) report addresses a number of issues, including the location, public access, and security of the archives of Tribunal, as well as preservation of the Tribunal’s records.

The Security Council requested the Secretary-General present a report within 90 days on the administrative and budgetary aspects of the options for possible locations for the Tribunals’ archives and the seat of the residual mechanism (UN Docs S/2008/849 and S/PRST/2008/47).

* Update (8/25/2008): The Office of War Crimes Issues is awaiting the findings of the Advisory Committee chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone before issuing any recommendations on the matter. According to Security Council Report for August 2008, “the Advisory Committee on Archives to the Registrars set up in October 2007 is expected to present its final recommendations to the tribunals’ registrars in the next few months.” (conversation with State Dept. Office of War Crimes 8/25/08. jts)

* Update (4/28/08):  A response from Clint Williamson, U.S. Department of State, was received April 2008.  Williamson response.

* 1/30/2008:  The Center for Research Libraries, on behalf of several U.S. universities, wrote to the U.S. Department of State Office of War Crimes regarding this issue. View a copy of the letter, co-signed by 14 Provosts, here.

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