The core idea of the Virtual Tribunal is to expand the conventional notion of the archive for International Criminal Tribunals into a powerful educational legacy tool, accessible to local citizens, schools, and universities as well as international audiences and posterity. It brings cutting-edge information technology to bear on what has previously been conceived as a largely archival function of preserving the documentary record of ad hoc courts and tribunals. Through its unique integration of archival materials, videos of the trials, photographs, films, hundreds of hours of interviews with trial participants and ordinary citizens, newspaper accounts, expert commentary and analysis by scholars, the Virtual Tribunal will breathe life into the historical record of these international criminal justice institutions. Support for the Virtual Tribunal is being provided by the Open Society Institute and the Hoover Library and Archive.
The Virtual Tribunal is a collaborative project between Professor David Cohen, Director of the War Crimes Studies Center, Professor Ruzena Bajcsy of the Department of Computer Science (at the University of California, Berkeley), and Richard Sousa, Director of the Hoover Library and Archive. Professor Terry Winograd of the Stanford University Department of Computer Science and Professor Franz Guenthner, Director of the Center for Computer Science and Linguistics at the University of Munich, are also key members of our IT team. Dr. Morten Bergsmo of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo and the International Criminal Court is a key partner for the international law content of the project.
The long-term goal of the Virtual Tribunal project is to create a dynamic, interactive online educational resource with comprehensive war crimes tribunal content, spanning from WWII through contemporary international criminal proceedings. The WCSC has reached informal agreements with officials at the two largest and most respected international criminal tribunals (for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda) to develop such projects with their institutions, but the Virtual Tribunal will begin with pilot collections at two much smaller Courts: The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
Virtual Tribunal Software
The core software, currently being developed under Professor Bajcsy’s direction, synchronizes the video record of trials with transcripts and make both, together with the full document record of the trial, interviews, and commentary, searchable through “real-time” menus, “intelligent search” and “computer vision” technologies. In addition, three-dimensional image scanning technology will enable the user to enter into a virtual courtroom, tour its facilities while guided by court officials, and receive an orientation of the courtroom and the function of all the participants. The different modules will be accessible through an interactive and user-friendly interface that will enable the user to easily explore the vast resources of the virtual tribunal’s interlinked databases, supplemented by multi-media information from other sources. In doing so, the virtual tribunal will preserve not only the documentary record of the court, but also the human legacy.
The Virtual Tribunal addresses the needs of diverse national and international user groups through modules, customized for various educational, informational, and research purposes. Modules can be built for education in school and universities in the country where the conflict took place, training and advocacy, professional education, jurisprudence, scholarly research, and so on. The fundamental idea of the Virtual Tribunal is to create a modular rich media educational tool that preserves the legacy of a tribunal and utilizes it as an educational and research resource. Once pilot collections from Cambodia and Sierra Leone are successfully running on the Virtual Tribunal software, we hope to expand the project beyond these two tribunals, and create a comprehensive repository for international criminal tribunal records unprecedented in scope.