Human Rights Day 2009

In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly declared December 10 to be International Human Rights Day.  Sixty-one years later, human rights advocates, lawyers, and everyday people continue to fight for a just world, as we saw over the past year with protests against coups in Honduras and Guinea, student protests in Iran and California, and continued action as new evidence emerges to hold accountable those responsible for disappearances in Guatemala and Argentina.

In honor of Human Rights Day, the HRDI is highlighting human rights stories and resources that are particularly relevant to the work we are doing at the Human Rights Documentation Initiative.  Starting in January 2010, this will be a regular feature on our blog, HRDI Updates.

Smithsonian Institution Collections Search Center
The Smithsonian Institution recently launched the Collections Search Center that allows users to conduct a federated search across their vast collection holdings, including images, audiovisual materials, electronic journals, and their library and archival collections.  A search for “human rights” yields a number of books, photographs, and articles related to human rights.

Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission
On August 18, 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed SB 482 which created the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission that will assist in efforts to preserve information related to the Holocaust and other genocides as well as work with museums, survivors, and organizations to ensure that learning materials about these atrocities are available to Texas educators.

The Commission offers a promising avenue for archival repositories with genocide and human rights related materials to introduce primary source materials into the educational curriculum for a younger audience.  Typically, primary resources are not introduced to students until the college level and thus many students are often unaware of the existence and importance of archives.  The incorporation of human rights-related archival materials into the curricula would not only introduce students to archives, but also enrich the history they are learning and perhaps encourage critical thinking about current events.

Currently, twelve other states have similar councils or commissions.

UNESCO Courier: Memory and History
The latest issue of UNESCO’s online publication, Courier, features several articles on archives and human rights, such as an UNESCO worker who found the Paraguayan police’s Archives of Terror from the 1970s, the Dominican Republic recovering archives from two successive dictatorships (1930-1996), and the Khmer Rouge archives (1970s) currently being used as evidence in the ongoing Khmer Rouge trials.

Related materials at UT
Horman papers on the death of U.S. journalist, Charles Horman, under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and subsequent lawsuit against Henry Kissinger

Letelier vs. Republic of Chile briefs investigating the assassination of Orlando Letelier, Chilean diplomat and opponent of the Pinochet dictatorship

Survivor testimony transcripts from trials of 9 Argentine military commanders for crimes commited during the Dirty War

Operation Sofia: Documenting Genocide in Guatemala
Operation Sofia: Documenting Genocide in Guatemala,” one of the National Security Archive’s latest reports, demonstrates how documentation has been used to prosecute genocide perpetrators.  The “Operation Sofia,” a 359-page document, details how the military executed its genocide of the indigenous Mayan communities in Guatemala.

Related materials at UT
Inside El Salvador
photos that document the country’s civil war and its aftermath

Central America Newspak that documented human rights violations in Central America