Atrocity’s Archives: The Role of Archives in Transitional Justice is a collaborative project between swisspeace in Bern, the Stasi Records Archive in Berlin and the Faculty of Law at University of Oxford funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account and the Leverhulme Trust. The project team organised a workshop that brought together archivists from around the world with academics to discuss the different role of archives in transitional justice processes.
There is a pressing need to discuss these issues because at present, we know little about how different types of archives such as court archives, truth and reconciliation archives, survivor testimony archives, (secret) police or state archives impact on the different stages in a transitional justice process or on proclaimed goals such as reconciliation, forgiveness or healing.
The workshop facilitated the production of a guidance note “The Role of Archives in Transitional Justice” and the development of a practical tool “The Archives We Built: Online Capacity Building Resource” for practitioners and civil society organisations engaged in archival TJ-work.
The online capacity building resource draws on the experience of different types of archives such as state archives, international organisations’ archives, truth commission archives, oral history archives and non-governmental organisations’ archives in establishing and preserving their archives in transitional justice processes. The project team interviewed all archive professionals who participated in the workshop and some of the academics, who are in the process of building smaller archives themselves or work on archives in transition contexts. The Capacity Online Resource covers a wider range of experiences from archives based in Israel, Argentina, Croatia, Germany, Albania, Libya, Colombia, USA, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Chile and Guatemala. The archivists talk about the context and feasibility of creating, protecting and maintaining their archives in, oftentimes, difficult political circumstances or still on-going conflicts. They furthermore highlight risks and challenges and what other archives can learn from their experiences.
Therefore, the Archives We Built capacity building resource fulfils a clear need, particularly for NGOs working with archives that have little access to academic knowledge or professional learning resources. It is a long-lasting and easily accessible online resource that can inform already existing archives, archives in the making and those still to come on how to shape the TJ-process they are embedded in. The Archives We Built has the potential to impact on archive professionals’ contribution to shaping the role of their respective archives in the search for truth, justice and reconciliation.