Abstracts [In Order of Presentation]
“Antonyms of Our Remembering,” Verne Harris, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Verne Harris argues that there are strong dominant discourses across the intersecting spacings of transitional justice, human rights archives, and reckoning with the past. The strength of these discourses can close down unorthodox perspectives and fresh lines of enquiry. Harris sets himself the dual goal of identifying such lines of enquiry and teasing out loose threads in the dominant discourses. The result is a provocation ranging from the experiences of his institution, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, to the work of deconstruction, from queer theory to the work of scholars like Adam Sitze and Undine Whande, from personal narrative to documentary film-making. His offering is at once a troubling of dominant discourses and a play with the antonyms of remembering in these discourses.
As the Arab uprisings, Occupy Wall Street, and numerous movements around the world have shown, activists and citizen witnesses are documenting human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale using mobile phones and inexpensive video cameras. The video they capture can be used in news broadcasts, as legal evidence, and will serve as invaluable historical documentation. But managing, preserving, and ensuring the authenticity of digital video is challenging—even for archivists. And traditional models of archiving are insufficient to ensure that this video, inherently fragile and unprecedented in volume, will survive into the future.
Since 1992 the human rights organization WITNESS has partnered with hundreds of grassroots organizations to enable the use of video in their human rights campaigns. Since 2003, the WITNESS Media Archive has supported this work by providing a permanent home for partners’ footage and edited productions, ensuring its long-term use and preservation.
In response to the immense growth in the number of people using video for social change, the primary focus of the Media Archive has shifted, from a collaborative but centralized archive, to one that endeavors to put archival know-how and resources into the hands of activists and human rights defenders themselves. The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video, launched July 2013, is the foundational project within this evolution.
This presentation will discuss the Guide in the context of this paradigmatic shift: its genesis in WITNESS’s advocacy and archiving work, its challenges, and lessons learned to date.
The Witness to Guantanamo Project films interviews with former Guantanamo detainees, their family members, and other people who have lived or worked at the naval base including prison guards, interrogators, interpreters, attorneys, prosecutors, medical personnel, FBI agents and high-ranking military and government officials. The website is at: witnesstoguantanamo.com
USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive (VHA), is the audiovisual collection of nearly 51,348 survivor and witness testimonies of the Holocaust, and as of April 2013, 65 testimonies of the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi genocide. The majority of the testimonies, life history narratives, were conducted between the years of 1994 and 2000 of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, collected in 56 different countries and 32 different languages. The testimonies have all been digitized, indexed, and are searchable and accessible through a number of online platforms for the purpose of secondary and post-secondary education and research. The content of the archive lends itself to an exploration of the implications of documenting human rights issues.
Using the Visual History Archive, this presentation will explore how the Institute navigated through the process from collection to provision of access, and in doing so, will allow for an interrogation of the key ethical, socio-political, cultural, and technical dimensions raised by building such an archive.
When archives practice becomes human rights archives practice, what are the implications to archives professionals’ understanding of concepts of power, value, and ethics? The 2007 book Ethics in Action: The Ethical Challenges of International Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations presents ethical issues for human rights activism that may be under-examined in our archival endeavors. The author, project manager for the University of Texas Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) with projects in Rwanda, Burma, El Salvador, and the U.S., will begin to attempt to apply concepts of power, value, and ethics from the human rights realm to the practice of archives. Using examples from HRDI, the author will test the Initiative’s activity against human rights ethical challenges presented in Ethics in Action including those of unequal power, restrictions on activity, and global poverty—with mixed results.
The 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina—which involved systematic violence against the ethnic ‘other’ through the genocidal campaigns of ‘ethnic cleansing’—resulted in more than 100,000 deaths, some 2.5 million displaced, 800,000 destroyed homes and widespread abuse of human rights. The war will also be remembered for systematic annihilation of material culture, ranging from the destruction of sacred buildings, historical monuments and bridges, libraries, museums and archives to historical documents, unique manuscripts and official records held at various local government and state institutions. The violence behind the destruction was not some spontaneous rampage, but a diligently planned and executed military campaign aimed at erasing any evidence that those who were ethnically cleansed once existed. Parallel to this, the perpetrators paid close attention to hiding and destroying the evidence about the crimes they committed. After the war, not only the loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, but also the obliteration of culture and disappearance of official records, created a huge obstacle for intending returnees: those who had been ‘erased’ now were required to produce documents in order to reclaim their property, school qualifications, and even birth and death certificates. While the records at a local level were largely irretrievable, at a higher level The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) managed to get access to highly classified records about the war crimes and how the whole chain of command of the Serbian army operated during the war in Bosnia. However, before handing over the records, the Serbian government made a deal with the ICTY that the records could only be used in the trail against Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s war-time president. Even after Milosevic died in custody, before his trial was finished, the ICTY has continued to honour this agreement, which de facto retrospectively gives immunity to the Serbian government for the war crimes and genocide committed in Bosnia.
In this paper I discuss how the survivors and the wider public in Bosnia and Herzegovina perceive, experience and interpret the issues relating to the missing personal records, the records that remain under an embargo by the ICTY as well as restricted access to other records about human rights violations during the war.
Over the course of twenty years, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has investigated and prosecuted dozens of individuals alleged to be responsible for crimes across the Balkans in the 1990s. The ICTY’s successes as a matter of law are undeniable – in short, building the world’s most important body of jurisprudence related to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and international criminal procedure. It has also collected the largest repository of documentation related to the wars, in every format imaginable: satellite imagery, oral and written witness testimony, government records, communications intercepts, and so on. Yet what good is such law and documentation if the people of the region reject the Tribunal and its legacy? The question is a live one, for the past year has presented the Tribunal with its gravest threat. It acquitted five senior officials – Ante Gotovina, a former Croatian general; Ramush Hardinaj, head of the Kosovo Liberation Army; Momcilo Perisic, chief of the staff for the Yugoslav army; Franko Simatovic and Jovico Stanisic, senior Serb security officials – triggering widespread outrage and frustration across the region. This paper will put aside the legal questions related to these cases and instead explore the yawning gap between political responsibility and criminal liability. It will assess whether the sagging reputation of the Tribunal is likely to have a lasting negative impact on its capacity to shape the historical narrative of the war.
“Cambodian Human Rights Archives: The Role of DC-Cam in Documenting and Preserving Khmer Rouge Archival Materials, Seeking Justice and Promoting Reconciliation in Cambodia,” Kok-Thay Eng, Documentation Center of Cambodia
This paper looks at the role of the Documentation Center of Cambodia in archiving Khmer Rouge history. It also examines how domestic and international politics influence DC-Cam’s works. DC-Cam was created in 1997. Today it has arguably the largest collection of Khmer Rouge documentary materials in the world. It has provided up to 500,000 pages of documents to the Khmer Rouge tribunal dramatically speeding up the court’s investigation. DC-Cam interviewed several thousands victims and perpetrators in their attempt to seek truth and find justice in Cambodia. Not only that DC-Cam is an archives it is also an institution which promotes justice, remembrance and reconciliation in Cambodia. It also seeks to educate the younger generations about the dark history of their country so that the past is not repeated through its genocide education.
DC-Cam’s work cannot be completed without favorable domestic and international political conditions. Remembering or forgetting the past bases almost entirely on local and international political situation. In Burma it is still very difficult to conduct documentation of the military junta’s atrocity against members of the opposition in the 1990s as the army is still in power. Thus naturally they resist any attempt to remember any atrocity which happened under their rule. In Cambodia the case is slightly different. Although some top members of the Cambodian government are former Khmer Rouge cadres and officers, they support documentation and research activities on the Khmer Rouge genocide. Although at some point in the 1990s, Hun Sen talked about digging a hole and burying the past, it was a political necessity and still is today as his party attempted to gain favor from remaining members of the Khmer Rouge in light of the FUNCINPEC’s similar attempt to attract Khmer Rouge army into their ranks. Because of promises made during the 1990s toward the Khmer Rouge defectors, the Cambodian government led by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) supports limited Khmer Rouge tribunal prosecution, but non-legal documentation and researching of atrocities in the form of a truth commission conducted by DC-Cam still continues with full support from the government.
In Cambodia the international regimes have influenced documenting and justice process. During the 1980s when the Khmer Rouge was still rampant and occupying much of Cambodian forest, it was virtually impossible to conduct interviews with both victims and perpetrators in the countryside. The People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) government supported any anti-genocide activities in their effort to discredit the Khmer Rouge, but funding from Western countries to conduct extensive documentation and research on the Khmer Rouge was limited due to the continuing Cold War. The Khmer Rouge then was still recognized by the West as legitimate government of Cambodia whereas the PRK which was set up the Vietnamese after their invasion of Cambodia was rejected. After the end of the Cold War, documenting Cambodia’s past atrocities became more robust. The US passed the Cambodian Genocide Justice Act in 1994 to collect documents against the Khmer Rouge atrocities and to seek justice for the victims in a possible tribunal. With the implosion of the Khmer Rouge as an effective political and military organization in 1998, DC-Cam travelled across Cambodia to seek to understand what happened from 1975 to 1979 and to document the dark past.
Historians tend to think of archives as repositories for the materials they need to write history. But far from being the fixed starting points for the production of history, archives are themselves the product of complex and shifting historical forces. Among those forces, relations of power – in a word, politics – arguably have the most profound consequences for the shape and functioning of archives. Indeed, one might say that almost everything about archives – their holdings, their rules of access, their architecture and design, the uses to which their holdings are put, even their very existence – is in some way structured by the political context in which they emerge and function. That is certainly true of archives documenting human rights abuse, many of which have arisen in the context of political struggles, and virtually all of which have been (or promise eventually to become) sites of political contestation. For scholars and advocates of human rights, then, the history and politics of human rights archives can be of immediate and practical relevance, helping us to understand what is possible, and what must be done to ensure the best possible outcomes in the future.
This paper explores these themes through a close analysis of the history and politics of the archives documenting human rights in East Timor. A tiny and impoverished half-island north of Australia, East Timor suffered staggering human rights abuse, including genocide, in the course of an unlawful 24-year occupation by neighboring Indonesia. Just a few years after winning its independence in 1999, East Timor’s national truth commission (CAVR) had established an unusually rich and diverse human rights archive, marking it as a success story among countries emerging from long periods of violence. And yet, to date, that archive has failed quite markedly in three crucial areas: providing meaningful access to survivors and the families of victims; encouraging serious historical or other scholarly research, and; promoting and facilitating demands for justice. What explains this curious outcome? This paper argues that both the successes and the shortcomings of the CAVR archive can best be understood as the product of shifting configurations of political interest and context inside and far beyond East Timor. It notes, further, that this is in some ways good news because it means that the shortcomings are not irreversible or insoluble. Based on that analysis the paper concludes that, in East Timor and elsewhere, successful human rights archival programs require more than technical fixes and enhanced expertise, and also more than good intentions and ethical behavior, but hinge critically on sound political analysis and political work.
The South African Democracy Education Trust (SADET) Road to Democracy Project originated in the office of former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, and was formally launched on 21 March 2001 marking the 41st anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. SADETs task was to remedy a serious lack of historical material about the long and difficult political struggles that led to South Africa’s democratic transition in 1994, and to provide the opportunity for makers of history “to participate in the process of recording that history …” (Mbeki 2004). The launch of SADET followed soon after South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process formally ended. Its visible outputs to date include 10 published academic volumes that help to fill a contextual void of the struggles and nuances that ultimately led to democracy and the TRC.
SADET’s representational concerns influenced how the project was conceptualized and implemented. Its extensive creation of and engagement with archival records enable an evaluation of post-apartheid archival priorities, and an examination of notions of participatory archiving and authorship in this context.
This paper looks at SADETs major representational issues, and some implications for liberation struggle archives.
In this paper I will discuss political and technical problems confronted by human rights activists and scholars in building an archive of past injustices in Indonesia. The first problem is rather fundamental, i.e. that past injustices are considered unimportant and irrelevant to the pressing problems of today. The failure to find the connection between the past and present both at a discursive and practical level resulted in a lack of support for human rights projects in general, and documentation in particular. The second problem is the narrow legal focus in dealing with past injustices where documentation units are reduced to function as “evidence warehouses”. The problem is rooted in the “fetishism of law” that grew in the early years of the New Order when legal aid was to replace political activism. The third problem is the dispersed nature of documentation initiatives. So far there has been no single institution responsible for the collection and preservation of the information gathered during investigations. The most likely candidate for this task, the National Commission of Human Rights, has no policy on documentation and archives. There has been little attempt to organize an information network that could bridge the different initiatives. The last problem is about method. Conventional methods prevented the inclusion of a large amount of data. New methods are needed in order to address such problems.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide took the lives of 800,000 individuals in 100 days. This equaled 20% of the population. It has been estimated that nearly every child witnessed violence first hand. This talk examines the archival component of the “Stories for Hope – Rwanda” (SFH) inter-generational dialogue project between youth and elders in post-genocide Rwanda.
SFH’s main motivations are to assist youth in healing and overcoming a violent legacy, mapping a positive future, and capturing-recapturing family, community, and Rwandan history. The target population for this project is Rwanda’s coming of age generation (18-30), many of who lost family members to genocide or jail, and were severely traumatized during the genocide. Focus groups suggest that these losses have negatively impacted the identity process and young people’s hope for the future. Other losses include the rapid disappearance of cultural stories and family histories. As in many post-genocide societies, stories of the past stay silent to avoid remembrances of horror. Meanwhile, Rwanda’s elders are rapidly passing away (average life expectancy is about 50).
The archival component of this project combines theories and practices of collective narrative work developed for communities who have experienced severe hardships and trauma with emergent archival scholarship and praxis on social memory development/transformation and participatory/community archiving. It has established processes and practices for the digital capture of permissioned dialogues and their archiving both physically in Rwanda and virtually over the web. To date over 100 of these dialogues have been recorded. Many are available over the web and all have been formally deposited at the newly reconstituted National Archives of Rwanda, which is also hosting an interactive multimedia exhibit on the dialogues. This talk will also include an examination of a post dialogue evaluation with 50 participants regarding their attitudes, motivations, and reservations in making their dialogues more broadly accessible.
Human rights prosecutions in Latin America are drawing on the secret files of military, intelligence and police forces for evidence in ways never before imaginable. Guatemala is at the forefront of a regional struggle to bring the investigations of truth commissions and newly available archives to bear on trials of crimes committed decades ago. The trials in turn have created pressure on states to provide direct and unrestricted public access to information about Latin America’s history of violence, and new rulings by the Inter-American Court support this rising demand. This paper will examine how Guatemalan prosecutions have helped galvanize diverse human rights stakeholders such as people affected by past violence, journalists, historians, investigators and judges to insist on the “right to truth” as central to efforts to end impunity, challenge the legacies of conflict, and begin to re-write a history still obscured by ideology and the politics of contested memory. But it will also explore some of negative unintended consequences that have resulted in Guatemala from the new interest in state archives as human rights evidence. They include the preemptive destruction of documents, the creation and promotion of “false” archives, challenges to the authenticity of documents, overuse of national security exemptions, and other tactics. As the search for truth and reparations continues, how do Guatemalans balance the desire for accountability through the release of archives with the control that still powerful state institutions – often the same institutions implicated in human rights abuses – exercise over the archives?
Across former Yugoslavia, and anywhere around the world where those from the region fled or settled, there are individuals, families and communities who have immediate needs for certain kinds of once-routine bureaucratic records – particularly those relating to identity, rights, property, licensing and certification – in order to support the recovery and reconstruction of their lives after the wars of the 1990s. Many of these records, whether they were located in government offices or in archives, have been lost, destroyed deliberately or as collateral damage, selectively eliminated, or hidden as a direct result of the ethnic and religious agendas underlying the wars. Of those that have survived, many are unindexed and few are in any kind of digital form, even those that are in archives. They may also be in locations that are difficult or precarious to travel to physically, and accessing them may require dealing with opaque, redundant, and re-traumatizing bureaucratic procedures.
Based upon my ongoing work in Croatia, this paper will first provide examples of the kinds of stories that people with different backgrounds and experiences tell about records. These illustrate the continued instrumentality of those records in everyday life almost two decades after the Croatian and Bosnian Wars ended. It will then discuss some of the situations within which archives and archivists have found themselves during and after the wars; and the practical and ethical dilemmas they face in securing and providing access to those records, especially in the face of lingering divisive ethnic and religious sentiments and differences in language and scripts. The paper will argue that at this moment in the development of Croatia, archives need to prioritize the immediate needs for types of records that otherwise might be considered to be fairly low priority for archival processing over the longer term considerations of preservation and scholarly use. They must also reorient and reinvent their access policies, systems, services around the needs, modalities, accessibility and emotional considerations of diverse populations of non-scholarly users. The paper will suggest several possible approaches.
When the massive anti-communist purge occurred in Indonesia in 1965-1966, the main perpetrators—both military and civilian—were the future political and social power-holders of the post-purge period. It was no surprise that most of the archives related to the purge remain in the hands of these power holders, especially the so-called “New Order” government of General Suharto. Suharto ruled Indonesia as an authoritarian president for the next 32 years (1966-1998), and during that period the archives related to the anti-communist purge was off-limit to the public. For a brief period following the fall of Suharto in 1998 Indonesia was under a successive civilian rules, but since 2004 Indonesia has been ruled again under a president with a military background, namely President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Under Yudhoyono public access to government’s archives was again difficult. The difficulties arise from two factors. One, most of the human rights abuses related to the 1965-1966 purges were undocumented. Two, even if there were documents on the events, most of the documents were in the hands of the Indonesian military or government agencies. The Indonesian National Archives (ANRI/Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia) in Jakarta holds only “neutral” documents regarding the period, and not much about the abuses themselves. Since 1998, however, a number of human rights activists have been informally documenting the human rights abuses by recording the testimonies of the victims. The documentations are kept in the forms of written materials, video and audio formats. It was through these informal documentations that the public (domestic and foreign) learn about the massive abuses.
This presentation proposes a theoretical framework for managing records documenting human rights abuse based on five key principles learned from the community archives movement: participation, shared stewardship, multiplicity, archival activism, and reflexivity. In shifting the focus of human rights archives to these core community-centric values, this paper develops a survivor-centered approach to such records and argues that survivors should maintain control over the decision-making processes related to records documenting their abuse.