Saturday, November 15, 2014

Records of the UN War Crimes Commission open to the public for the first time

Tuesday 11th November 2014, a discussion panel took place at the UN HQ in New York on the United Nations War Crimes Commission Records (1943-1949).

"The United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) was operational between 1943 and 1948 and played a vital role in preparing the ground for the war crimes trials that followed the Second World War. The evidence was submitted by 17 member nations for evaluation so that war criminals could be arrested and prosecuted. 
The archive also contains records of trials carried out in various Member States and presented to the Commission, including national military tribunals and the Military Tribunal of the Far East (Tokyo Trials). 

This panel will bring together experts to discuss the content of these archival documents, their impact on the development of international law and the International Criminal Court, as well as their potential use by and value to students and academics. A full copy of the records of the Commission was provided to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in July of this year; they were not freely open to the public earlier. 

Opening remarks: 
Ms. Hua JIANG, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Department of Public Information; 
H.E. Mr. Asoke Kumar MUKERJI, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations 
Panellists:
Mr. Adama DIENG, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide; 
Ms. Bridget SISK, Chief, United Nations Archives and Records Management Section; 
Mr. Patrick J. TREANOR, Former member of the Office of Special Investigations, the United States Department of Justice; 
Mr. Dan PLESCH, Director, The Centre for Diplomatic Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS, University of London; 
Mr. Henry MAYER, Senior Adviser on Archives, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 
Moderator: Ms. Edith LEDERER, United Nations Correspondent for The Associated Press"

 http://webtv.un.org/.../united-nations-war.../3886628590001

"Speaking at the panel discussion, United Nations War Crimes Commission Records (1943-1949): Past, Present and Future, Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, underscored the importance of acknowledging the Commission’s legacy in terms of dealing with war crimes today.

“The United Nations War Crimes Commission was an important international justice initiative, but its work has largely remained in the darkness,” Mr. Dieng said.

Noting the significance of getting nations to agree so many years ago on setting up a central authority to investigate and make recommendations on war crimes, Mr. Dieng said the release of the archives to the public also represents a significant reminder of the importance of gathering and keeping records and bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

“The failure to hold those accountable can break down the social fabrics of society and perpetrate mistrust,” he said, adding: “A fragmented or frustrated society is a society that is more likely to return to violence.”

The archives of the War Crimes Commission contain evidence submitted by 17 Member States, including lists of alleged war criminals, files of charges brought against them, minutes of meetings, reports, correspondence, trial transcripts, and related documentation about the activities of the Commission, its committees, and individuals identified as alleged war criminals, including evidence compiled against them and records related to their prosecution by national tribunals.


Although some of the information in the documents has long been known to investigators and historians, prior to the Commission’s records being made available to the Museum, the public was unable to view the documents. Researchers at the UN, for instance, must petition for access through their governments."

Hopefully this announcement will attract greater attention to the holdings of the UN Archives:

In an interview with UN Radio, one of the panellists of today’s roundtable, Bridget Sisk, Chief of the UN Archives and Records Management Section, underscored the significance of ensuring that a record of what occurred during the Commission’s time of operation is kept. 

“We hope that the interest that’s been generated in the archives of the War Crimes Commission will stimulate greater research in the UN’s archives,” she stressed.

“We have archives spanning 108 years of history. But we also hope that it stimulates some momentum in the Organization among stakeholders to make sure that the digital records that the Organization is creating today of bodies such as the Commission are created and managed appropriately,” she added.

Speaking during the roundtable, Ms. Sisk highlighted that most of the charges discussed in the Commission’s records have never been subjected to judicial review.

She also noted that the rules regarding access to the records were not seriously challenged until 1986, when “intense pressure” led the Secretariat to a review of the policy following allegations that Kurt Waldheim, who served as UN Secretary-General from 1972 to 1981, had himself committed atrocities during the Second World War. 

Even today, Ms. Sisk said, the number of requests to the UN for access to the Commission’s records is “strikingly low,” averaging five or fewer per year."


 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49313

http://www.unwcc.org/documents/

A part of the UNWCC holdings are accessible online through the ICC Legal Tools Database:

"The ICC Legal Tools Database has made available virtually all of the unrestricted records of the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), including its Far Eastern and Pacific Sub-Commission, and its three committees.

More than 2,240 UNWCC documents, totalling 22,184 pages, with search data for each document, have been added to the ICC Legal Tools Database. The records include meeting minutes from the Commission and its subordinate bodies, their working documents, and materials from the Research Office (which contain the Office’s own reports and reports from national and Allied authorities). Also included are a small but wide-ranging portion of the war crimes trial reports sent to the Commission by national authorities (Australia, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway)."

http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/press%20and%20media/press%20releases/Pages/pr925.aspx

All holdings are open for public consultation in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington D.C.:

"The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has obtained a full copy of the U.N. War Crimes Commission archive that has largely been locked away for the past 70 years under restricted access at the United Nations. On Thursday, the museum will announce it has made the entire digital archive freely available to visitors in its research room.

Although information in the documents has long been known to investigators and historians, the public was kept out. Even researchers at the U.N. must petition for access through their governments."


http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/17/holocaust-museum-acquires-copy-un-war-crimes-archive-from-wwii-will-give-public/


http://www.ushmm.org/research/research-in-collections/overview/archives




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