Archives and Human Rights  book cover
1st Edition

Archives and Human Rights

ISBN 9780367150341
Published March 9, 2021 by Routledge
352 Pages

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Book Description

Why and how can records serve as evidence of human rights violations, in particular crimes against humanity, and help the fight against impunity? Archives and Human Rights shows the close relationship between archives and human rights and discusses the emergence, at the international level, of the principles of the right to truth, justice and reparation.

Through a historical overview and topical case studies from different regions of the world the book discusses how records can concretely support these principles. The current examples also demonstrate how the perception of the role of the archivist has undergone a metamorphosis in recent decades, towards the idea that archivists can and must play an active role in defending basic human rights, first and foremost by enabling access to documentation on human rights violations.

Confronting painful memories of the past is a way to make the ghosts disappear and begin building a brighter, more serene future. The establishment of international justice mechanisms and the creation of truth commissions are important elements of this process. The healing begins with the acknowledgment that painful chapters are essential parts of history; archives then play a crucial role by providing evidence. This book is both a tool and an inspiration to use archives in defence of human rights.

The Open Access version of this book, available at, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.


Table of Contents


Michele Bachelet

Message from the President of the International Council on Archives

David Fricker


Jens Boel, Perrine Canavaggio and Antonio González Quintana

Part 1: Archives and Human Rights: A Close Relationship

Jens Boel, Perrine Canavaggio and Antonio González Quintana

1. Archives and Citizen Rights

2. Records and Archives Documenting Gross Human Rights Violations

3. Archives and Transitional Justice

4. Archives and the Duty to Remember

5. Archivists for Human Rights

6. Archives and Human Rights Beyond Political Transitions


Part 2: Case Studies

7. Proof

Trudy Huskamp Peterson


8. A Long Walk to Justice: Archives and the Truth and Reconciliation Process in South Africa

Graham Dominy

9. Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission: Archives in the Pursuit of Truth

Adel Maïzi

10. The Exploitation of the Archives of Hissène Habré's Political Police by the Extraordinary African Chambers

Henri Thulliez

11. The Gacaca Archive. Preserving the Memory of Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda

Peter Horsman


12. Memory Politics and Archives in Sino-Japanese Relations

Karl Gustafsson

13. The Use of the Archives of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Documentation Centre of Cambodia by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Vincent de Wilde d’Estmael


14. Spanish Military Documentation on the Civil War and the Dictatorship as an Instrument of Legal Reparations for the Victims of the Franco Regime

Henar Alonso Rodríguez

15. The ‘Centres of Remembrance’ in Post-Communist Europe

José M. Faraldo

16. A Legacy of the DDR: The Stasi Records Archive

Dagmar Hovestädt

17. France and the Archives of the Algerian War

Gilles Manceron and Gilles Morin

18. Truth, Memory and Reconciliation in Post-Communist Societies: The Romanian Experience and the Securitate Archives

Marius Stan and Vladimir Tismaneanu

Latin America

19. Archives for Memory and Justice in Colombia after the Peace Agreements

Ramón Alberch i Fugueras

20. Utilisation of the Archives of the Peruvian Commission for Truth and Reconciliation

Ruth Elena Borja Santa Cruz

21. Archive, Truth and the Democratic Transition Process in Brazil

Aluf Alba Vilar Elias

22. Archives for Truth and Justice in Argentina: the Search for the Missing Persons

Mariana Nazar

23. Chronicle of a Backlash Foretold. Guatemala’s National Police Archives, Lost and Found and Lost – and Found? – Again

Kirsten Weld

Concluding Remarks

Jens Boel, Perrine Canavaggio and Antonio González Quintana

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Jens Boel is a Danish archivist and historian. He was the Chief Archivist of UNESCO from 1995 to 2017 and Chair of the International Council on ArchivesSection of International Organizations 2000-2004 and 2008-2012. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge-publication: Recordkeeping in International Organizations.

Perrine Canavaggio, a French archivist, was head of the Archives of the Presidency of the Republic (1974-1994). Secretary of the International Conference of the Round Table on Archives (2001-2009), she is a member of the Executive Committee of the ICA Section on Archives and Human Rights.

Antonio González Quintana is a Spanish archivist. He is the chair of the ICA Section of Archives and Human Rights and has been Deputy General Director of Archives in the Community of Madrid (2010-2018). He is author of Archival Policies in the Protection of Human Rights (2009).