Releasing Captured Documents
Proceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law), Vol. 104, pp. 584-587 ( March 24-27, 2010)
6 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2015 Last revised: 15 Jul 2015
Date Written: 2010
As military forces make their way through opposition territory, they seize enemy records that are likely to serve their military objectives. These records might be in government files, military installations, or opposing soldiers’ packs and pockets. Known as “captured documents,” the records are legally designated as booty under international law; upon capture they become the legitimate property of the capturing military. Some of the captured documents may serve as evidence in international criminal tribunals relevant to the hostilities.
Beyond that use, there is no international law associated with the application, retention, or dissemination of either the documents or the information contained within them. The documents might be destroyed, donated, archived or stored. If they are archived, researchers have the best chance of implementing their content. However, the lack of international regulations about access to these archives enables incomplete research. Additional and contrary access concerns arise as new technologies expand the methods and extent of document capture and exposure. Clearly, the past century’s document capture has benefited individuals and institutions far beyond the scope of military objectives and criminal prosecutions.
Keywords: Booty, War, Captured documents, Military, Cultural property, Archives, International law
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