Open the Archives of the Yugoslavia Tribunal!

Petition to open the archives of the ICTY

ICTY Legacy in the press:

Balkan Insight:

NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch):

Press Release of 31 March 2016: ICTY Legacy May Get Lost

Open Letter to the Signers of the Petition 31 May 2016

Dear Colleague,

You recently signed a petition to “Open the Archives of the Yugoslav Tribunal,” and we thank you for adding your signature to the document and for supporting the cause.  We, four of your fellow petitioners, formally presented the petition and the list of its more than 250 signatories to UN officials in two meetings, one in New York and another in The Hague.  We write to share with you some encouraging news about both meetings.

In a meeting at the ICTY on March 31, Saskia Baas and Bob Donia presented the petition to ICTY Registrar John Hocking, Deputy Registrar Kate Mackintosh, Chief Archivist Elizabeth Emmerson, and Chief of Operations of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) Bob Reid.  We were received warmly, and an open, fruitful discussion ensued.  Our hosts assured as that they were all committed to making the collections accessible and findable to the public as time and resources permit.  The Registrar, aided by his staff, has already taken several steps to make accessible those court records under his jurisdiction.

These steps included placing all 11,000 exhibits in the Karadzic case on the “ICTY Court Records” website and several other measures announced on the ICTY website.  He is aware of the catastrophically dysfunctional state of the search engine on the ICTY Court Records website and assured us that a better search engine is on the way.   Encouragingly, the Registrar proposed that we meet again, perhaps with an expanded roster of participants, to continue the fruitful dialogue. Deputy Registrar Mackintosh reiterated that invitation in an e-mail message on May 25, 2016.

OTP Chief of Operations Representative Bob Reid assured us that the entire collection of almost 10 million documents and other items (excluding those considered confidential) will be available by the end of 2017, and that certain parts are already available to selected users through the Electronic Data System.  We proposed that the OTP accelerate the public availability of eight key document collections which have partly already been admitted into evidence in one or more trials and therefore qualify for general access.  While he responded positively to the suggestion, Mr. Reid stated that he needed approval from Chief Prosecutor Serge Bremmertz to proceed.  (As of this writing, he has not notified us of the answer to that query.)

In a meeting at UN Headquarters in New York on 11 April, Richard Wilson and Vladimir Petrovic presented the petition to Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Stephen Mathias.  They were warmly welcomed and Mr. Mathias listened to the concerns raised by the petitioners and expressed the UN’s commitment to safeguarding the archives. However, he also considers this responsibility to lie primarily in The Hague.

Overall, we found our interlocutors to be responsive to our concerns.  We were encouraged by their expressions of commitment to making the archives open and accessible, and we hope that they will continue to act to realize these commitments.  In hopes of continuing the dialogue with the appropriate officials, we have begun to think of ourselves, the signatories, as “Friends of the ICTY Archives,” an informal group with the purpose of supporting, encouraging, and assisting the appropriate UN bodies in making the unrestricted holdings in the ICTY Archives available to all.

Continuing our efforts to highlight the importance of open access to the archives, we have translated the petition into Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian (BCS) for circulation among stakeholders and victim communities in the former Yugoslavia. The translated version of the petition can be found on the petition’s website where you will also find press statements, op-eds and other updates regarding the petition.

Best regards from your fellow Friends of the ICTY Legacy,

Saskia Baas

Robert Donia

Vladimir Petrovic

Richard Wilson