Locked inside U.N. headquarters is a huge but largely unknown archive documenting 10,000 cases against accused World War II criminals, from Belgian charges against Adolf Hitler to the trial of a Japanese commander for inciting rape.
Leading British and American researchers are campaigning to make the files _ hundreds of thousands of pages in 400 boxes _ public for the first time in 60 years, arguing that they are not only historically valuable but also might unearth legal precedents that could help bring some of today’s war criminals to justice.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is also seeking to have the archive opened.
The archive belonged to the United Nations War Crimes Commission, a body established in October 1943 by 17 allied nations to issue lists of alleged war criminals _ ultimately involving approximately 37,000 individuals _ examine the charges against them and try to assure their arrest and trial.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed Saturday that the secretary general had received the request and “understands the interest in the archives.”
“He has asked UN experts to look at the request,” Nesirky said.
U.N. chief archivist Bridget Sisk said that, to her knowledge, this was the first request to change the rules of access in more than 20 years.
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