Archiving Memory after Mass Atrocities
Rapoport Center Human Rights Working Paper Series 4/2012
35 Pages Posted: 24 May 2013
Date Written: April 30, 2012
This working paper explores legal and policy issues that arise when collections of documents pertaining to past atrocities are discovered in societies emerging from civil war, state collapse, or dire misrule. Although national and international laws provide some guidance on the archival steps to be taken, that guidance is often quite limited in transitional periods. In addition, limited institutional capacity and high political stakes often magnify questions about the state’s ability to carry out such functions justly. This working paper argues for a “foundational approach” to documentation that focuses on the constructive roles that applicable legal and ethical principles allow international actors to play. A foundational approach implies taking steps to bolster the transitional state’s capacity to protect, organize, preserve, and disseminate records detailing past abuses—crucial steps in setting a strong base for justice and memory initiatives and thereby upholding the individual and collective “right to the truth” about grave human rights violations.
Keywords: Human rights, transitional justice, right to the truth, archives
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