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Documenting the Past of Croatia: Establishment of a Digital Database on War Crimes

Project facts

  • Funder:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MATRA)
  • Partner(s): INpro, NIOD, Zagreb University Faculty of Law, X-cargo
  • Project period: October 2006 – September 2010
  • For information mail to: office@nhc.nl

It is essential for the transformation of Croatia into a peaceful, pluralist and democratic society that it gets to terms with its recent violent past. For this to be possible, information about war crimes and about the prosecution and adjudication of these crimes should be available to everyone. A great initiative in that direction is the war crimes database, which was developed at the Law Faculty of Zagreb University with the aim of digitising and indexing all relevant newspaper articles. However, a few things still prevented this database from functioning as a public information service in 2006.

This project was designed to support the digital database on war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, with the aim of ensuring that this information does not disappear from the collective memory in Croatia. The project was designed to make the database sustainable, specifically by institutionalising it within the University, increasing the professional capacities of the staff and making it publically accessible.

Within this project, new software was developed to respond to the technological and substantial needs of the database team and end users. To be able to work with the search tool several trainings for the database staff were implemented, who in turn taught librarians of the Law Faculty how to use the database, the method of indexing and digitalisation and how to prepare large enquiries for seminars. The librarians will pass their knowledge to other colleagues from relevant faculties. The Law Faculty affirmed that the database project is very important and has assured that it will be institutionalised and that sufficient means will be made available or raised. There is currently a high quality digital war crimes database available at the Law Faculty in Zagreb, which is maintained by the Law Faculty since the end of the project. The database contained at the end of the project 50.885 newspaper articles published between April 1996 until October 2010. It is possible to search through the information in various ways, which makes the website accessible and useful for people with a specific query. Its interface has been tested by the intended users, such as law students and researchers, and has proven to fulfil their demands.