Give Rwanda custodianship of ICTR archives

The Open University of Tanzania, together with the East African Law Society, is organizing a consultative meeting on August 16-17, to discuss where the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will be located after the tribunal winds up its activities in 2010.

The Open University of Tanzania, together with the East African Law Society, is organizing a consultative meeting on August 16-17, to discuss where the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will be located after the tribunal winds up its activities in 2010.

Amongst the people expected to attend are law experts and legislators from East Africa and the world generally, archivists and curators, who will brainstorm where best to relocate the extensive tribunal’s archives, and send their recommendations to the Goldstone Committee that is chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone that was given the mandate to identify the final repository for the archives.

One would have thought that it was pretty obvious where the archives should be sent; but it appears that nothing is as easy as it looks. For the conveners of the meeting, any place in Africa is good enough.

We say yes, but add that Rwanda is pretty much the best location the ICTR archives should be shipped.

Rwanda was the stage of the Genocide that precipitated the UN to set up a special court to try the perpetrators, most of whom are Rwandan, as were most of the victims.

The discussants should note clearly that the bulk of the contributions to the work of the court that makes up the whole of the archives, were from Rwanda. Many witnesses both for the prosecution and for the defence have been shunted to and from Rwanda, and no doubt the ICTR court proceedings are in a great part heard in Kinyarwanda, thereby negating any translations for the local people who would peruse these files were they to be brought to Rwanda.

These archives are a part of Rwandan history now, and so should be easily availed to Rwandans. They are as much a part of the country as are the Genocide sites and museums, even if their elaborate physical set-up was by the help of the United Nations.

It would create more impact for researchers about genocide to come to Rwanda to look over the archives, and while they are at it, visit the memorial sites and so have a more complete picture than they would get if the archives were located in another part of the world.

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