Using the WCRO Jurisprudence Collections

A few preliminary notes:


The WCRO Jurisprudence Collections ("Collections") are best viewed in Internet Explorer. You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your system in order to view most documents. (To download a free version of Acrobat Reader, click here.)

The Collections are a series of jurisprudence collections from various international/ized courts and tribunals. While most of these documents are available on court websites, they are not consistently organized, nor are they easily searched. The WCRO has developed a method of organizing, labeling and filing more than 21,500 documents into what we hope will be an intuitive and useful file structure. Where necessary, we have also converted files to maximize search ability and compatibility with browser types.

As you use the Collections, please do not hesitate to contact us at warcrimes@wcl.american.edu with any questions or comments about your experience.

You may choose to use the Collections either by browsing for a certain document (e.g. a judgment from a particular case) or by searching for specific terminology. Details about both processes are outlined below.

1. File types
2. File naming conventions
3. Structure of the Collections
4. Redirecting
4. Notes about ICC documents
5. Searching the Collections

File types

 

The Collections contain documents in two file formats:

1. PDF: All files from the ICC and ECCC, and most files from the ICTR, ICTY and SCSL, are in PDF format. To view these files, ensure that you have Adobe Reader downloaded to your computer.  The use of PDF files allows near-universal access to the Collections and regularized document formatting. However, some of these files have been scanned as image files by the courts, thus compromising their ability to be word-searched. We have converted these documents to searchable format, but their functionality may be compromised.

Click here to see an example of a word-searchable PDF document

2. MHT: The ICTY, ICTR and SCSL traditionally saved their court documents as HTML-based web pages. For years, these files were saved into the Collections by converting the files to MHT, which is a web archive file type. MHTs are useful in that they preserve the internal links and images from web pages—this is particularly helpful in long documents with a table of contents and internal links to endnotes. MHT files are also word-searchable. However, MHT files are not always printer-friendly and many browsers do not support this file type. To ensure ease of use, we recommend that you browse the Collections in Internet Explorer. If you are using the Collections with Mozilla Firefox or another web browser, you may have to open MHT files in a separate Internet Explorer window. If you are using an Apple computer with OS X, please contact us to troubleshoot options for accessing the Collections.

Click here to see an example of an MHT file with internal links
(Use this example to test your web browser’s compatibility with the Collections.)

As we receive feedback from users of the Collections, we will upgrade the files to maximize text-searching while working toward broadest possible compatibility.

 

File naming conventions


The nomenclature is quite specific, and is intended to help users scanning for a particular document to find it based on its file name. A trial chamber decision from October 8, 1997 related to the “Bagambiki et al” case is labeled:

1997-10-08, Bagambiki et al-TC Dec Cnfrm Indict

Note that the date is listed (with the year first, followed by the month and then the day), a comma, then the name(s) of the defendant(s), then a hyphen, then TC, AC, PTC, Pres, etc. (depending on where the decision, order, etc. was made), followed by part of the title of the court document. Many of the documents have very long names, and these have been shortened to allow compatibility with various operating systems and transfer media.

 

Structure of the Collections


For most courts, documents are filed under two major folders:

Statutes, Rules and Other Documents: Contains statutes, rules and other documents (such as background information, reports and completion strategies) for the courts and tribunals.

Cases: Contains the bulk of the jurisprudence for each court or tribunal.

1. Following the "Cases" link will bring you to a list of additional links that are organized by case (delineated by accused name and case number).

2. Following the link for a particular case name will bring up a list of document types (such as case summary, decisions, indictments, judgments, orders, etc.).

3. Following the link for a particular document type will bring you either to a page where you can open the document itself (such as an indictment) or to an option to view documents by the issuing chamber (such as a decision from the appeals chamber).

 

Redirecting


In some courts, individuals are tried as a group with other defendants. In the ICTY, ICTR and SCSL, a note indicates where individuals have been jointly indicted or tried. Hyperlinks will bring the user to the directory containing case documents. For instance, the link to documents in the Bagambiki case directs the user toward Ntagerura et al. for full case documents.

In the files pertaining to the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in East Timor, the user will find directions, but not a hyperlink, for finding consolidated or joined case documents. To navigate these files, simply go back to the list of cases and locate the necessary case name.

 

Notes about ICC documents

Structure: The ICC distinguishes between situations and cases when investigating conflicts. Within the ICC Collections, documents are organized first by situation. The ICC defines a “situation” as including an unspecified number of criminal incidents by unknown perpetrators in a particular territory during a certain period of time. Currently, there are six situations under investigation: the Central African Republic; Darfur, Sudan; Democratic Republic of Congo ("DRC"); Uganda, Kenya, and Libya. Within each of the six situation folders are folders linking to documents relating to decisions, orders, submissions, etc.  A “case” comprises specific incidents with identified suspects. Case-specific documents, if they exist, are located by clicking on the situation (e.g. DRC) then clicking on the "Cases" link. This will bring you to a list of cases, organized by the accused's name. Within the accused folders, documents are organized in much the same way as they are within the folders for other courts.

Submissions: Unlike other courts and tribunals, the ICC makes submissions by the defense, prosecutor, states, victims, and others publicly available. The WCRO has traditionally included ICC submissions in the Collections, but has recently ceased doing so due to the volume. The WCRO is currently evaluating its policy towards submissions and may include them in the future.

French-language files: Documents in French are uploaded only when an English translation is unavailable. Once an English translation is released by the ICC, the French version will be replaced.

 

Searching the Collections


Although documents in the Collections can be accessed by browsing through the folder structure as described above, the real value of the Collections lies in the users’ ability to search documents across courts and tribunals, rather than being limited to searching within the individual court websites.

To search the documents, first make sure that you are logged in to the Collections. Then, from the “Browse the Jurisprudence Collections” page, click on “Search the Collections” in the sidebar on the right. Once there, you may select a particular tribunal to search or search the entire Collections.

The search is powered by Google Mini, and uses Google’s search terminology. Note that Google’s default behavior is to consider all the words in a search.  If you want documents containing any (instead of all) of your search terms, use the OR operator. For more information on Google searching, including how to search phrases, exclusions and negative words, see Google’s help center here

While Google Mini provides a Google-quality search, it does not have all the features of the full Google Search Appliance.  For example, Google Mini does not have the automatic stemming feature, which searches on the stem or root of a word that can have multiple endings.  To search for word variants in Google Mini, you can use the OR operator, the * (wildcard) feature, or a combination of both.  Here are some sample queries:

[peace *] will return documents containing “peace” as one word, “peace-” (peace-keeping, peace-building), and “peace” plus another word (peace agreement)

[peacekeeping OR peacekeeper OR peacekeepers] will return documents containing any of these words

Combining these two queries - [peacekeeping OR peacekeeper OR peacekeepers OR peace *] - will return the most comprehensive results.

Once you have located a document from the search results, simply use CTRL+F to search within the document for your desired search term.

Please be advised that not all the files in the Collections are searchable. The WCRO obtains most of the documents in the Collections directly from court websites. As noted above, some of these files were scanned as image files by the courts, compromising their ability to be word-searched. Although the WCRO has converted jurisprudence previously scanned as PDF image files into searchable PDF format, the functionality of some files has been compromised. Because these files are not fully searchable, all responsive documents may not be returned as hits when a researcher searches the Collections. Similarly, CTRL+F will not locate a search term within these compromised files. The WCRO is looking into additional ways to enhance the searchability of the Collections, but recommends that researchers keep this issue in mind when evaluating research results.

Final Notes

As mentioned before, the Collections are constantly undergoing development, expansion and improvement. We welcome input from users, and we look forward to enhancing this resource as international criminal law continues its rapid development.