Arusha, 8 September, 2008(FH)-A consultative meeting of African experts and stakeholders in Arusha has suggested that the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UN-ICTR) records, archives and related equipment should remain on the continent.

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"The option of UNICTR archives and equipment being housed outside Africa is opposed '' according to a communique obtained by Hirondelle on Friday.

The experts, however, accepted that the records, archives and related equipment remain the property of the UN.

"All sealed records and materials that need to remain confidential should be maintained and retained so, unless by a Court order. The security of such sealed records and materials needs to be guaranteed,'' explained to Hirondelle Agency, Bobi Odiko, one of the participant.

Regarding funding, it was resolved that the UN and its African member states, the East African Community, the African Union (AU), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the private sector to pool resources together.

"There are available African infrastructures and sufficient technical capacity to manage the UNICTR archives,'' added Odiko, who is a senior officer with the East African Law Society.

The recommendations have been forwarded to Justice Richard Goldstone, Chairman of the joint five-man experts team established to propose on the future of the archives of the UN-backed Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and ICTR.

"We're in final stages of our report ...it is expected to be ready next month," Tanzanian Judge Othman Chande, a member of the panel told Hirondelle last week. Judge Chande is a former Chief of ICTR Prosecutions and ex-Prosecutor of East Timor UN administration.

The experts committee is expected to provide the ICTY and ICTR with an independent analysis of how best to ensure future accessibility of the archives and propose different locations that may be appropriate for housing the sensitive materials, composed of an extremely large records, testimonies and several tens of thousands of hours of videotaped courtroom proceedings --in a manner in which their security and preservation can be protected.

The many benefits of uses for the archives include their role to facilitate ongoing and future prosecutions; serve as a historic record, as well as contribute to peace and reconciliation in the regions.

The study was commissioned on behalf of the Tribunals by the two Registrars, Adama Dieng (ICTR) and Hans Holthuis (ICTY) last October.

The UN Security Council has directed ICTR to complete all pending trials by end of December, 2008. However, the tribunal has requested for an additional one year to smoothly wrap up the cases. The ICTY is expected to wind up all first instance trials by end of next year.


© Hirondelle News Agency