Friday, February 20, 2015

Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal

After the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the UN set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). This historic tribunal delivered its last trial judgment in December 2012 and is now winding down its appellate work.

In 2008,  a team from Seattle—including information scientists, lawyers, and videographers—went to Tanzania (where the tribunal is) and Rwanda to interview judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, interpreters, court administrators, and others connected with the ICTR. The result is 49 video interviews, publicly available on the Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal website as well as carefully archived for the future. The project's principal investigator is Prof. Batya Friedman, from the UW Information School.

The project's vision is to "provide to the world, especially the people of Rwanda, free and open access to these interviews with personnel from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)."

Our intention is to enable as many innovative, derivative uses as possible. We imagine such uses may include documentaries on Rwanda, textbooks discussing genocide, Pan-African justice capacity building, blogs, school projects, a handbook for future tribunals, plays, performances, legal curricula, and reconciliation projects within Rwanda. We are currently designing information systems to support appropriation and use within Rwanda, within the international justice system, and for the global public, now and into the future.
Any user can watch the videos. Users can also select clips and label them to highlight them for others. For example, someone watched the interview with Judge Dennis Byron, the President of the tribunal, and marked a clip on "the need for international criminal justice to become routine [1:17]." And someone marked a clip from the interview of Hassan Jallow, the chief prosecutor, on "the limitations of legal justice [1:48]." (The staff have to process the clips for start and stop times, so if you mark one it won't be displayed immediately.)

Users can tag clips. Interestingly, the form for tagging invites users to identify nationality, gender, birth decade, and profession or interest. As the tags accumulate, the team will be able to get a sense of the tags used by Rwandans, Africans, and others; by people born before or after the genocide; by journalists, high school students, lawyers, or historians. That will help evolve future access responsive to different communities.

The site is still being developed. This spring searchable transcripts of each interview will be posted.

Here's a short video about the project:

By the way, one of the original team members was Justice Robert Utter, who died last fall. The library's memorial page for him is here

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