Archives, Evidence and Human Rights

Course Description: 

The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (, one of the most significant Cold War and human rights archives in the world, offers a three-credit interdisciplinary course to the students of the Human Rights Program of the Legal Studies Department. The course includes an introduction to the history and philosophy of preserving recorded memory and gives an overview of the basic functions and types of modern human rights archives. It further aims at analyzing the legal and ethical problems of using human rights documents containing personal data, as well as basic provisions of archival and information law. Case studies will illustrate the problems of using and evaluating evidence on mass atrocities, the historical, ethical, and legal aspects of making justice for past abuses and the difficulties of making state leaders liable for human rights violations. New methods of creating historical/human rights narratives from diverse archival sources will be introduced, along with innovative digital systems of managing human rights information. The course also explores practices of memorializing grave human rights violations in the archival space. The course is cross-listed with other CEU departments to attract students with different backgrounds working on topics related to recorded memory, history of human rights movements and violations, historical analysis and representations of oppressive regimes or retroactive justice.
Grading is based on a take-home essay prepared on the student’s individual research topic, research in OSA’s archival holdings, consultations with the supervisors, as well as a mid-term presentation and other written and oral contributions to classes.

Learning Outcomes: 

- Guide students in understanding common archival goals and processes, and different approaches to gathering and organizing information

- Develop students’ ability to find and use primary sources in their research and thesis writing

- Orientate students in the area of online search possibilities, especially in finding and using trusted search engines, databases and online repositories

- Urge students to reconsider the use of recorded memory in evaluating the moral and legal aspects of justice-making

- Challenge students to evaluate, critically approach and innovatively use different kinds of archival documents relating to violations of human rights

- Strengthen students' ability to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of documentary evidence in the context of human rights


Grading is based on a take-home essay on predefined topics, as well as individual research into OSA documents, class participation, and individual consultations with the respective supervisors.