31 May 2011

UNHRC report on archives and the right to the truth

Summary of report:

In its resolution 12/12, the Human Rights Council invited the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene a seminar on the importance of archives as a means to guarantee the right to the truth and to report on the outcome of the seminar to the Council at its seventeenth session. The seminar took place on 24 and 25 February 2011, and the present report is submitted in accordance with the Council’s request.

The discussion during the seminar was focused around four themes: (a) the preservation of archives and the right to the truth; (b) using archives in criminal accountability processes; (c) using archives in non-judicial truth seeking processes; and (d) the placement of archives of repressive rule.

The report outlines the importance of archives to the ability of victims to realize their right to the truth, to judicial accountability and non-judicial truth-seeking processes, and for reparations. It records the views of participants regarding the duties of States to protect and preserve information concerning human rights violations, including that from truth commissions, courts and tribunals, NGOs, and regional and intergovernmental organizations, and the obligations on States to ensure the preservation of archives and to enact laws to govern the management and access to archives. The report further notes possible initiatives for the preservation and management of archives during transitional periods.

List of experts and practitioners participating in the seminar
• Marco Tulio Álvarez Bobadilla, Archivos de la Paz de la Secretaría de la Paz, Guatemala
• Elisabeth Baumgartner, Dealing with the Past programme, swisspeace, Switzerland
• Diane Brown, Office of the President, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
• Thomas Graditzky, International Committee of the Red Cross, Switzerland
• Antonio González Quintana, Archives of the Community of Madrid, Spain
• Catherine Kennedy, South African History Archive, South Africa
• Trudy Huskamp Peterson, Certified Archivist, United States of America
• Sandra Orlovic, Humanitarian Law Center, Serbia
• María Luisa Ortiz Rojas, Collections, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Chile
• Patricia de Valdez, Memoria Abierta, Argentina
• Patrick Walsh, Post Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Technical Secretariat, Timor-Leste

Read the report