David Cohen originally established the WCSC to support his work collecting and analyzing a vast body of generally overlooked post-World War II war crimes trial records scattered across Europe, East Asia and the South Pacific. At the time he began this research, most people had heard of the proceedings at the International Military Tribunal for Nuremberg, but few in the academic or legal community knew much, if anything, about the vast body of WWII-era international legal precedent from national war crimes programs that Cohen was studying. With the support of the Volkswagen Foundation, the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, the Wang Family Foundation, and the University of California at Berkeley, the WCSC began collecting and negotiating access to trial records from across the European and Pacific theater countries in which WWII was fought. To date, Cohen and the WCSC staff, along with teams of graduate student researchers and undergraduate interns, have collected thousands of previously inaccessible (and sometimes classified) war crimes trial records from WWII proceedings conducted by China, the Netherlands, Italy, Great Britain, France, Australia, the United States, and the Philippines.
In light of the number of new tribunals that have been founded around the world since the 1990s to prosecute international crimes, and because so many of the original documents are in danger of deterioration, our work is both urgent and timely. We are dedicated to preserving these records for posterity and making them accessible to scholars and practitioners who may use find the archive to be a valuable reference tool. To enhance our ability to meet these goals we have entered into a strategic partnership with the Hoover Library and Archive at Stanford University and with them are currently developing preservation programs for trial and truth commission records in East Timor, Indonesia, and Cambodia.
The center, in cooperation with leading computer scientists at Berkeley, Stanford, and Munich, is currently developing the Virtual Tribunal as a multimedia software platform to make these archival resources accessible and meaningful for a wide range of international users.