Posts Tagged justice
Join WITNESS and the New Tactics community for an online dialogue on Archiving Human Rights for Advocacy, Justice and Memory from May 16 to 22, 2012. Archiving and preservation have long taken a backseat to more urgent aspects of human rights documentation and advocacy, but that is beginning to change. Human rights archives are increasingly playing a pivotal role in advocacy, restorative justice, historical memory, and struggles against impunity. At the same time, however, archivists and activists alike are grappling with the mounting challenges posed by the proliferation of digital documentation. How can we ensure that the critical documentation created today will be preserved and accessible in the future?
In this dialogue, we will explore the tactics and methods used by archivists to preserve human rights information. Are you new to this topic? This is an opportunity for you to learn about the role of archiving in human rights work and how to develop your own archiving strategy. Are you knowledgeable on this topic? This is an opportunity for you to share your experiences with peers, learn about new tactics, and meet others working in this field.
Join us on May 16 to meet others interested in this topic, learn new ideas, and share
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Join WITNESS and New Tactics for an online dialogue on Archiving Human Rights for Advocacy, Justice and Memory from May 16 to 22, 2012.
New Tactics and WITNESS have invited Archivists Watch to participate in this dialogue. The invitation is extended to anyone interested to the topic and I urge you to observe and join in to enrich the conversation.
University of Colorado professor, Bruce P. Montgomery shares with AW a revealing journal publication he has authored. It is an excellent study on the question of territorial provenance, ownership, and custody. In it Montgomery looks in depth at the unique dynamics between the Iraq Memory Foundation (IMF), the US military, and the long-held contentious cultural property of Iraq in the hands of private US institutions. Cultural property in the form of the former Iraqi government’s archives, the Baath Party Archive, normally fall into a category of state records that should be opened to citizens “‘in service of transitional justice, national reconciliation, and democratization'” as seen with the former Stasi regime archive, the Tuol Sleng Archives, inter alia.
Montgomery purports that through the extenuating circumstances of wartime Iraq in 2003 (as the emergence of civilian defense contractors under the US military like the IMF) and through a lack of legal frameworks, the IMF was able to evade direct contraventions to existing international laws and conventions that define cultural property theft or pillaging when the group transferred records out of Iraq. Montgomery reveals that the legal status of contractors can be considered ambiguous at best because they ostensibly operated outside legal mechanisms. He presents arguments that the IMF, in the backdrop of this largely chaotic and tumultuous period for Iraqi citizens and the Hussein government, was able to leverage the situation to their advantage, circumventing legal protocols to transfer the Iraqi documents. Consequently, the archives are not accessible to the citizens who could benefit from its use. Thus, the circumstances surrounding the current fate of the archives has also been a barrier to legitimizing straightforward accusations of wartime pillaging of records.
Montgomery also traces the actions of various cultural and national institutions, non-government groups, and key officials in securing the country’s archives and the laws ensuring its possession. He also outlines relevant international laws and conventions alongside the case – the Hague, Geneva, and UN conventions…
AP released an investigative article last month on the contradictions of what they term, “right-to-know” laws, or what information professionals usually dub Freedom of Information (FOI) or Access to Information legislation. The news source found that developing democracies with newly established FOI laws are better at fully addressing access to information requests from the public, citing Guatemala and India as cases. European and North American countries however fared less adequately in this regard. US FOIA officials in the Department of Justice attribute their inadequacy to an inability to tackle the challenges that come with the emergence of electronic records. AP suggests that FOI laws founded in developed countries early in the formation of FOI legislation are showing their age.
In developing democracies where FOI laws are in use, the ideal of giving voice to ordinary people by enabling them with the right to know information has been realized. However, the successful execution of these laws is not without its costs. AP shows that in India retributive crimes arise against ordinary citizens who seek answers through the use of right-to-know laws. These individuals normally seek justice in holding accountable corrupt authorities who in turn terrorize them for exercising their right to information.
In light of the harm these laws can engender for those who use them, there is still a long road ahead for developing democracies beyond right-to-know laws. Such transparency laws are not guarantees of open societies that will protect its citizens despite the new powers they offer them…
Renowned archivist, Trudy Huskamp Peterson, was invited to the Wilson Center earlier this year to speak about her last publication with the center, Final Acts. As the Chair of the ICA Human Rights Working Group, former President of the Society of American Archivist, and recipient of the French Order of Arts & Letters Award, Trudy is the authority on archival issues in human rights.
The Wilson Center ON DEMAND posted a video of Trudy’s appearance. In it Trudy filters her expansive experiences in constructing, examining and improving archives all over the world with post-conflict trauma and regime change, largely related to cases in Egypt where destruction of archives has definitely occurred. Trudy readily admits she is not so optimistic about reconciliation but believes in transformation and institutional reform. She shares her views on the involvement and sometimes ostensible role of state archives in protecting violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Trudy also discusses the different bodies of justice and courts which are currently supported by the work of archives worldwide.
Last month South Korea establish its first archive of human rights abuses in the North. The North Korea Human Rights Documentation Center and Archive was designed to mirror West Germany’s Salzgitter Center that was opened in 1961 and recorded cases of human rights abuses in East Germany during the Cold War. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Korea in a plenary session passed the motion to establish the archive. The archive will subsequently be housed in the headquarters of the NHRC.
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Granito, a documentary on the Guatemalan atrocities of the 1980s premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival. I met the director, Pamela Yates, after a screening of her last film, The Reckoning, in New York for the 2009 Human Rights Watch Film Festival. At the time, we spoke about the role of archival footage in bringing justice to oppressed groups and individuals. Yates was traveling between the U.S. and Latin America at that time filming Granito. Yates’ documentary footage from a related 1982 film, When the Mountains Tremble, was currently being used to develop a human rights case for victims of the political and civil conflicts in 1980s Guatemala. Because outtakes from this earlier documentary being used to develop cases against the Guatemalan state, Yates was given the unique opportunity to follow and document on film the subsequent unearthing of government archives which were used also used as evidence in the trials.
Watch Skylight Pictures video