Posts Tagged TRC

Archives After Conflict in Guatemala, Sierra Leone and South Africa – A Wilson Center Video

Trudy Huskamp Peterson at the Wilson CenterRenowned 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.

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UNMIS Archivist Tom Adami to Speak at National Research Centre Forum

Tom A. Adami will be featured as a speaker at the National Research Centre Forum on the Canadian Residential Schools hosted by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada next month in Vancouver.  He has worked since 1990 as an information manager when he joined the Dept of Defence in Sydney as records manager and archivist. In 1997 he joined the National Archives of Australia as a research officer in the policy development section.  In 1999 he joined the United Nations, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Tanzania as Chief Archivist and head of the Judicial Records and Archives Unit. He subsequently held postings at the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and at the UN Archives in New York.

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Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada to Establish Research Centre & Forum

On June 2008, on behalf of the Canadian government, Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper gave an apology to aboriginals for past policies of assimilation and the aboriginal residential school system.  This sparked a renewed interest in the ongoing controversy, the result of which included renewed research interest and use of records from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) pertaining to this period in Canada’s past.

Recently the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada announced as part of its mandate it will establish a National Research Centre. The centre would be accessible to former students, their families and communities, the general public, researchers and educators.  During its mandate, the Commission will ensure that all materials created or received will be preserved and archived with a purpose and tradition in keeping with the objectives and spirit of the Commission’s work.

In keeping with this part of the mandate to establish a National Research Centre, the TRC is planning to hold a three-day forum in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on March 1-3, 2011 at the Sheraton Wall Centre.  The forum will assemble discussion panels of experts who will provide information to assist the Commissioners in gathering and archiving the statements being gathered.

The vision that emerges from this forum will be the basis on which the National Research Centre will be established.  The expertise being shared will be specific to the creation and organizational structure of research or archival centres, databases or projects for statement gathering, research, public access and privacy management, capacity-building, public education or memorialisation.  The forum will have a particular emphasis on institutions and records that relate to indigenous peoples and to Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, the records and statements they collect and how best to make these accessible.

Go to forum website

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Final Acts: A Guide To Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions

Authored by archivist and Chair of the ICA’s Human Rights Working Group, Trudy Peterson, and in partnership with The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, this publication provides guidance to current and future commissions on managing their records once the work of a commission draws to a close.  Because truth commissions vary from country to country, this publication does not claim to provide answers. Peterson states that “those emerge from the individual context in which the commission operates”.

At the end of the last century, the “truth commission” emerged as a means of addressing the tumultuous violence that occurred in a country.  There are many examples from Central and South America.  A large mass of records and information flow through commissions in a short amount of time, usually to produce a report.  It is most often the case that records of truth commissions (those created previously by other institutions, as well as those contemporaneously produced and used by a commission) are difficult, if not impossible, to trace.  In keeping with the premise behind a truth commission, the records of such should eventually be made publicly accessible to ensure the transparency of the actions and decisions of the commission.

Peterson stresses that this publication is not a list of comprehensive guidelines in managing the records while still in active use.  Drawing from past and present examples, Peterson produces essential reading for assistance and insight into the proper disposition of the records of such commissions after they close.

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The Urge to Remember: The Roles of Memorials in Social Reconstruction & Transitional Justice

This report is based on the deliberations of the United States Institute of Peace Working Group that focused on the role of memorialization in promoting, jeopardizing, or impairing social reconstruction or reconciliation emerging from violent conflict.  Judy Barsalou and Victoria Baxter discuss the effect of memorials on victims and national identity by providing examples of efforts around the world.  Museum and libraries are prevalent examples as centers for memory and memorialization.  Also, brief mention of international criminal tribunals’ retention/disposition practices reveal the need to take more of a victim-based approach in handling records of a judicial nature.

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Justice Served in Guatemala: Testimonies from The National Security Archive & Benetech’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group

On October 28, 2010, two former Guatemalan police officers accused of the 1984 abduction and forced disappearance of Labour Party activist, Edgar Fernando Garcia, were sentenced to 40 years in prison.  The indictments and sentencing were long overdue.  Last week Kate Doyle, a Senior Analyst at The National Security Archive (NSA), and Daniel Guzman, a statistician with Benetech, testified as expert witnesses for the prosecution in the trial of ex-police officers, Hector Roderico Rios and Abrahan Lancerio.

I was introduced to the Guatemalan National Police Archives and the contributions made therein by Kate Doyle, by way of award-winning documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates (Pamela was generous with her time in explaining to me her own projects which shed light on the atrocities in Guatemala).  Doyle’s earlier assessment of the Death Squad Dossier a military logbook documenting the disappearances of Guatemalans during the civil war violence of the mid 1980s, provided the watershed moment that allowed families of victims to pursue collective legal action.  Doyle has been a committed advocate of truth commissions in Latin America for nearly two decades.  Her work with the NSA, a long-standing partner of the Guatemala Human Rights Office, has brought justice by advocating openness in society and transparency in government.  Doyle currently serves as advisor to the archivists of the Archives of the National Police in Guatemala.

Last week’s successful trial highlights some points on the importance of records for use as legal evidence.  In an interview with The WITNESS Blog, Doyle portrays this case as representative of a serious violation of one’s right to information.  Edgar Fernando Garcia’s wife, Nineth Montenego de Garcia, was for years denied access to information as to her husband’s disappearance.  A vigorous proponent of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, Doyle condemns this silence of the state and continues to stress the use of archival records as evidence of human rights violations to seek justice.  Needless to say, the availability of the records from the archive undoubtedly opened the Garcia case.  According to a post on the NSA blog, Unredacted, Doyle writes that the “indictments…were the first to be based on evidence found by the investigators among records inside the Historical Archive of the National Police.”

Another impressive feature of the proceedings was the testimony of statitician Daniel Guzman.  Guzman is a consultant with the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG).  HRDAG performed a, sort of, records forensics analysis on a sampling of the records to produce a statistical analysis of the data in the records, which was then presented in court.  The prosecution used the analyzed data to make it abundantly evident that Garcia’s disappearance was part of a systematic pattern of the state to eliminate opponents during the 1983-86 regime of General Oscar Mejia.

HRDAG is a project offshoot of Benetech and it’s work exemplifies one of the novel ways archival records may be used in similar legal cases.  Benetech’s purpose to apply technology in effecting change is strategic.  They target three thematic areas in their work: Environment, Literacy, and Human Rights.  The defend human rights by using information management to analyze records and provide technical assistance to other organizations, commissions,  and groups to resolve conflicts and improve lives.  HRDAG is a unique and promising amalgam of information management, statistics, and technology for the human rights movement.  Their success in Guatemala, which made the arrests of the ex-police officers possible, may prove to have similar applications in places like the Congo where civil war fuels human rights abuses.

Read Kate Doyle’s post Unredacted

Read WITNESS’ interview with Kate Dolye on activism in archives

Read FRONTLINE/World’s article on Benetech

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New from the University of Toronto Press: Better Off Forgetting? Essays on Archives, Public Policy, & Collective Memory

The UofT Press released this publication in September.  It brings together essays from a who’s who of archivists to explore the landscape of rapidly changing information against the role of archives in gathering and preserving our collective memory.  The essays cover relevant topics to subject of archives and human rights such as the use of archives for reconciliation in regions affected by armed conflicts, the census wars in Canada, access and privacy, and accountability and the public sphere.  The essays come from some of the archivists who have had the most influence on this blog.  The essays were authored by Tom Adami, Marion Beyea, Robert Cole, Terry Cook, Terry Eastwood, Jo-Ann Munn Gafuik, Chris Hackett, Yvette Hackett, Martha Hunt, Tom Nesmith, Robert Steiner, Doug Surtees, Shelley Sweeney, and Bill Waiser.

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