Archives and human rights: an agenda to strengthen democracy
Documentary heritage related to human rights plays an essential role in processes of democratic consolidation, especially when it refers to periods of repression, armed conflicts or dictatorships in which those rights have been seriously violated.
“Human rights archives” fulfil three functions: they are essential to guarantee the rights of victims to know what happened; they are fundamental in the fight against impunity and the promotion of reparatory policies, vetting and the re-establishment of the rule of law; and they constitute a valuable resource for the promotion of remembrance policies and preserving the history and legacy of human rights.
Argentina has followed a complex path regarding its “Human Rights Archives” documenting to the period of state terrorism that included the last military dictatorship (1976-1983). These archives (of different origins and produced in different contexts) have been the subject of debates, specific demands and actions by various state actors and civil society organizations, since the beginning of democracy (including requests to open files or declassify documents, judicial requests for the destruction of records/archives, the search for new archives, debates about custody or storage of archives/records etc.). From very early on, human rights organizations contributed documentation to the Argentinean truth commission, the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP). These archival collections, obtained from civil society, together with the records produced by the CONADEP itself form an important human rights archive. Both the Commission and its archive became emblematic of Argentina’s democratic transition and an essential tool for the implementation of justice and the development of reparation policies. The title of the CONADEP report, “Nunca Más” – “Never Again”, transcended borders and times and became a symbol of the consciousness of a society and the belief in the guarantee of non-repetition.
UNESCO recognizes the value of historical documentary heritage as an important element for the memory of peoples. In 2007, following a joint initiative of the Argentinean Government and civil society organisations, the human rights archives linked to the last Argentinean military dictatorship were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Today, these “Archives for Truth, Justice and Memory in the Struggle against State Terrorism” form a heritage of universal interest. Its preservation, systematization and, above all, the creation of a clear, increased access policy are necessary measures, which will allow the democratization of the knowledge about this “memory of the world” in society.
Please check workshop’s conclusions of 2018 International Conference here
This conference was organized in order to highlight the important role that archives play in the fight against serious human rights violations, as crucial sources for dealing with the past processes and their contribution to transitions as well as the subsequent consolidation of democratic systems. The conference and workshops provided an opportunity to revisit the agenda determined in 2003 by the International Conference “Round Table of Archives” (CITRA) held in Cape Town and the issues raised in other meetings on archives over the last decade. As a result of the “Round Table” a resolution on archives and human rights violations was adopted which gave the impulse to create the working group on Archives and Human Rights within the International Council of Archives.
The conference and workshops have offered practitioners, experts and academics from the fields of archives, human rights and transitional justice a space for dialogue, as well as the opportunity to exchange knowledge and good practices related to specific topics, such as:
– Access to state and non-state archives and access to archives of international organisations,
– The contribution of archives to judicial processes and the fight against impunity,
– Archives as a contribution to reparation, resilience and the promotion of human rights, – Archives as sources for dealing with the past processes and the preservation of memory, as well as their contribution as a guarantee of non-repetition,
– The contribution of archives to the creation of alternative narratives and their impact on state policies,
– The need for policies to protect and preserve archives in conflict or post-conflict contexts domestically and abroad.
Within the framework of the conference, the exhibition “Relicarios” from the Colombian artist Erika Diettes and the exhibition “El Archivo del Nunca Más” presented by CIPDH and Memoria Abierta will be inaugurated.
Both exhibition will be open to the public until the end of May 2018.