Where will archives of UN Rwanda Tribunal end up?

What you need to know:

  • The archives are believed to contain millions of pages of evidence and several tens of thousands of hours of videotaped courtroom proceedings

Arusha. Where will tonnes of archives on the Rwanda genocide cases end up now that the UN Tribunal is on the verge of closing down?

Tanzania, which has hosted the legal facility since the 1990s, has often expressed a desire to preserve them once the tribunal is completely shut.

Rwanda, where the genocide took place, has equally insisted that it was logical for them to host the archives as part of its history, which has its share of tragedies.

The Tribunal’s officials, on the other hand, once confided that the ultimate decision on who will take the archives the UN Security Council. 

However, for years, they admitted being aware that Tanzania had made formal requests to host the archives and its library.

The archives are believed to contain millions of pages of evidence and several tens of thousands of hours of videotaped courtroom proceedings. It could not be established if they had been moved out of the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC), where the tribunals had their chambers. Most of the archives were from the case proceedings of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which closed shop in December 2015. 

It was succeeded by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (the Mechanism), which recently closed its detention facility in Arusha.

The future of the archives came up for discussion during Wednesday’s meeting between the Constitution and Legal Affairs minister Damas Ndumbaro and the President of the Mechanism, Judge Graciela Ghatti Santana, in Dodoma. 

The two parties were not clear on the finality of the matter but only acknowledged that the activities of the Mechanism were, indeed, coming to an end. 

The President of the Mechanism said the library was of special significance to Tanzania “as it enriches the country’s long and outstanding tradition of attracting top lawyers and researchers from the region.”

Dr Ndumbaro, on the other hand, reiterated Tanzania’s strong interest in the preservation of the archives of the ICTR and the Mechanism “for their legacy”.

The future of the archives at one time entailed roping in the Open University of Tanzania (OUT), which expressed its desire to host them. 

A senior OUT official was quoted saying years ago during a visit here, “It is good if the archives are hosted in Tanzania and Arusha in particular.”

While the OUT don insisted Arusha was where the ICTR had been working from, a Rwanda government official at the same time opined: “There is no dispute over who owns the archives. Rwanda is where the genocide took place. Such documentation would form part of our history.”