There is a debate going on in different quarters regarding the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The debate has come to light because the Arusha based ICTR is in the evening of its life.
Who finally takes custody of the ICTR archives, should be a simple and logical issue. The Rwandan people should take custody of ICTR archives as part of the historical legacy of the country. It should serve as a continuous reminder of what happened in Rwanda.
Whereas some have been reported advocating that the archives should be in The Hague or New York, I find this to be rather unacceptable. It would be like locating the Rwanda Genocide memorials in America or Europe.
In any case, the custody of the archives for people who would like to use them in research and for academic purposes would be largely irrelevant, since it has been said that they are electronically available.
This at the same time vindicates the reasons as to why Rwanda and Rwandans should have custody of the archives.
The people who suffered and lost loved ones due to the Genocide need to be allowed to have access to files and records of cases of those who planned and implemented the Genocide in 1994. Many in Rwanda may not be able to do that electronically. The rest who are abroad can do so electronically.
Moreover it is apparent that the tribunal will wind up business before all the people who are on the run for having carried out Genocide have been brought before the Arusha based tribunal to face justice.
Such people should be tried in Rwanda once their time to face justice arrives. So, Rwandan courts will be continuing the work of the ICTR. That makes it logical that the files are available and held in custody by the Rwandan people.
The most important point here, I believe is that for the principal of never again to stand, Rwandans should at all times be reminded of what happened during the Genocide and in its aftermath.
With a central repository for all the Genocide cases located in Rwanda, children in schools can make trips to such a place where they have a visual picture of what happened and those who did it and how they responded when the cases were brought before the courts.
I believe the point of having the archives located in Rwanda has more implications than how people can access the documents. It is a national legacy however painful it was. It is a constant reminder.
If the archives are transferred to The Hague or New York, there will always be people who will remain dissatisfied with such a move. They will continue to advocate for the location of the archives in Rwanda.
At the same time anybody who has interacted with people who come from abroad and visit the Genocide memorials, always gets to know that those visits help them to put into perspective what really happened in Rwanda.
They tend to get to understand what happens on an emotional level. A number of them leave with a different perspective of humanity - what humans can do to fellow humans.
Thus for people to understand fully what took place and what has become of the victims and the perpetrators, they may have to look at all those categories at the same time for the same reason to fully appreciate the whole scenario.
This goes for foreigners and Banyarwanda alike. When one perceives what happened and its aftermath at one go, and on a personal and emotional level, it is different from someone who is doing it in an impersonal level with a researcher’s or academician’s aloofness.
Whatever decision is finally taken, it should be understood that the archives, assets and documents of the ICTR do not exist solely for research and academic purposes. Surely there is more to that.