I returned last night from a brief but really productive symposium at the University of Connecticut, organized and hosted by the Dodd Center, home to the University’s human rights collections. The symposium was designed in part as a follow-up to last October’s conference at Columbia, and an effort to foster collaboration and resource-sharing among organizations – academic, NGOs, independent – holding human rights collections. There were perhaps twenty of us there which allowed for a lot of direct discussion, including with the keynote speakers, Patricia Wald, longtime US federal appeals judge who served on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and Trudy Huskamp Peterson, probably the foremost authority on human rights archives in the world.
Patricia Wald delivered the Sackler lecture on Monday to a general University audience; she spoke about problems in two areas of human rights law, women’s rights and criminal tribunals. Judge Wald also spoke to our smaller group the following day, sharing some perspectives on issues relating to documents of the ICTY. For example, who makes the decisions about what to save, where are the archives kept, who controls and who has access? Other complications result from the language differences, the sheer length of the trials, and standards of document authentication. She remarked that for the ICTY the archives of the Nuremberg trials were extremely useful, given the lack of other precedents for international tribunals.
Trudy Peterson spoke about a number of topics, including her work the past few years with the Guatemala Police Archives (Please see Kate Doyle’s article in the December 2007 Harper’s for more on the story of the Guatemala archive’s discovery and recovery) and about a recent visit to Sierra Leone. She also talked about several sets of documents seized from Iraq which have either been in or remain in US possession. In the case of some tens of thousands of boxes of documents removed by US and British forces in 2003, the ALA, SAA and other professional organizations are calling for their return to the Iraqi National Archives.
The list of possible issues for discussion was ambitious and of course we touched on only a few, but the day ended with some concrete plans for steps forward by creating a web portal as a vehicle for aggregating and sharing information about our organizations, collections, best practices, events, etc etc.
There was much more; I’ll try to report more in the next few days.