Arusha, December 10, 2009 (FH) - The East African Community (EAC), a regional bloc of five East African countries, has been challenged to identify where it considers best could be hosted the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), trying key suspects of 1994 genocide, when the mandate of the UN Court closes next year.

1 min 57Approximate reading time

‘'A common position for the keeping of archives in East Africa will greatly benefit the region,'' a leading ICTR Jurist , Dr Obote Odora said in his presentation at a two-day annual meeting of the East African Chief Justices held in Nairobi, Kenya early this week.

The five EAC Partner States are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

In his presentation titled: ‘'An overview of work of ICTR'', Dr Odora said there are no urgent or persuasive reasons that justify the removal of the archives from Arusha [which has been seat of the Tribunal for the past 15 years] to any other location, arguing that youths, as future leaders of East Africa, would have easy access to the materials as they would not require visas to travel to Arusha to study these documents.

‘' Suggesting Arusha as the best place for keeping archives does not in anyway undermine Rwanda's right to offer herself a place best suited to keep and preserve the archives,'' Dr Odora, who is also the Head of the ICTR's Appeals Chamber and Legal Affairs, cautioned.

Although the issue is still under consideration by the United Nations Security Council, Dr Odora believes it would be helpful to provide options to the Security Council for its consideration. ‘'Thus, presenting Kigali, Nairobi and Arusha as possible places for locating ICTR archives is a good strategic move,'' he counseled.

Currently, the ICTR and its sister Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia (ICTY) are in discussion with the Security Council in an attempt to identify a place where the ICTR archives shall be deposited and preserved.

There have been a number of propositions that the archives be located in New York, The Hague, Nairobi and Addis Ababa. Rwanda has also offered to host them.

‘'The debate currently being conducted by the Security Council Working Group on archives provides an opportunity to the EAC to position itself as a place where the ICTR archives could be deposited and preserved,'' he hinted to about 50 top East African judges and judiciary officials.

The archives are composed of an extremely large amount of records including several million of pages from the Office of the Prosecutor and the Court Management Support Section which holds several tons of thousands of hours of videotaped court-room proceedings.

‘'In the final analysis, the primary beneficiary of the archives is the Rwandan people. It is only logical that any decision on archives ought to take into account the best interest of Rwanda,'' added Dr Odora.

The United Nations Security Council has directed ICTR to complete all first instance trials by 2010. The UN Tribunal has so far convicted 39 persons and acquitted eight. Cases are underway for ten accused persons. Two trials are yet to start.


© Hirondelle News Agency