A Note on Human Rights Archives

The advent of digital technologies and the Internet have coincided with—and even facilitated—the growth of a global human rights movement. During the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others have publicized, documented, and sought to prevent ethnic and political violence against civilians in these regions.

These groups have been able to bring digital technology to bear on their efforts to call attention to the abuses in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. One such group is the Human Rights Documentation and Information Systems International, or HURIDOCS. An international cooperative of information technology and archive specialists based in Versoix, Switzerland, HURIDOCS is a “global capacity-building network of organizations that use documentation techniques, monitoring methods, information management systems, and available technologies in the defense of human rights and the prevention of abuses.” HURIDOCS develops standards and provides training in information management, and tools and techniques for monitoring and documenting violations of economic, social, and cultural rights.

Benetech, a U.S.-based non-profit, creates technology solutions intended to “profoundly transform and improve the lives of others.” Benetech products and services, like Martus software and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), use technology and scientific methods from demography, epidemiology, and statistics to support compilation, analysis, and presentation of data on mass violence and atrocities. Benetech’s work provided invaluable evidence against Slobodan Miloševic´ before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

These organizations and technologies are generating important historical data and evidence that some day may, and should, reside in libraries or archival repositories. It is useful to be aware of them today, so that provisions can be made to enable that evidence to persist.