This two day conference, chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone, will mark the 70th anniversary of a forgotten initiative in operation from 1943 to 1948 and evaluate the potential contribution of the Commission’s work to contemporary efforts for international criminal justice and human rights advocacy.
With a focus on the key issues discussed by the Commission and addressed by member nations through their national trials, the conference will examine themes including the prosecution of sexual violence, torture, crimes against humanity and collective responsibility. Justice Richard Goldstone will open the conference with a keynote address and confirmed speakers include internationally-respected human rights law expert William Schabas, and Mark Ellis, Director of the International Bar Association.
The conference is hosted by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS and the International Bar Association, with the generous support of the Oak Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and in cooperation with the Wiener Library, American University War Crimes Research Office, and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights.
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The UN Archives and Records Management Section (UNARMS) and the ICC Legal Tools Project have responded magnificently to the UNWCC project’s representations to them to facilitate public access to the archive.
For the first time scholars, campaigners and lawyers can readily access the unrestricted files of the UNWCC. These files contain records of thousands of charges against Nazi and Japanese war criminals and the details of the development of a global, if short lived, system of international criminal justice.
As late as November 2011, the UNARMS position was that even the now open sections of the archives could not be copied but following the representations made by our team at that time this policy has changed to some degree and this laid the ground for the access by the ICC. Some sections of the archive are also available in the Australian, Canadian, UK and US archives.
Dr. Plesch and his colleagues continue to seek effective access for bonafide researchers to the still restricted sections of the files which contain some 30,000 sets of pre-trial documents submitted by national and mixed military tribunals to the Commission for its prima facie judgement. These files contain details of many charges of crimes that are not being prosecuted with extensively today including rape and forced prostitution, and crimes by ordinary soldiers.
Dr Plesch’s work focuses on the overlooked contribution of the UN War Crimes Commission of 1943-1948 to International Criminal Law has been recognised as introducing a positive new paradigm by Justice Richard Goldstone. The Oak Foundation’s £31,000 grant is focused on making the entire 400,000 page archive publicly available including the still largely classified 36,000 charge files. The research is being conducted by Dr Plesch and Project Assistant Director, Shanti Sattler, in partnership with the SOAS Law School, the Wiener Library, the City University of New York’s graduate centre for international studies and the human rights centre of the American Bar Association.
CISD is delighted that Prof Thomas G. Weiss has joined the Centre as Research Professor working with Dr Plesch on their project looking at the implications of the alliance of United Nations during WW2 and prior to the UN Charter for Twenty First Century policy.