Archiving Justice: Conceptualizing the Archives of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia


The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will complete its proceedings over the coming years, leaving behind an enormous collection of records. The ICTY archive provides a record of conviction and acquittal, prosecution case and defense response – a vast series of contested facts and arguments. The ICTY winds down with a decidedly mixed reputation, especially among the communities of the Balkans, doing damage to the already-discredited idea of a Tribunal capable of aiding the processes of reconciliation. And yet the UN still speaks of the reconciliatory purposes the ICTY archives may serve. Pursuing reconciliation, however, sets up the archive for failure. It would be better for those establishing the archives to focus on other, attainable goals, taking into account Martha Minow’s (1998) caution against judicial records that merely “speak for themselves”. This essay provides historical context for the development of the ICTY archive, outlining its two decades of work, and emphasizes the political context from and into which the archive will emerge.

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