05.02.2013 - Communication & Information Sector

Tunisian archivists issue recommendations on the right to access information

Inscriptions on a wall in Tunisia - © UNESCO

As a follow-up to the conference on “Archives and the right to know” organized by UNESCO last December in Tunis, Tunisian archivists issued a series of recommendations to their government on the adoption of a specific archival policy in Tunisia.

In a phase of transition towards democracy, having access to the archives that contain proof of violations perpetrated against human rights, determining responsibilities, guaranteeing reparations and rebuilding history are the major steps needed to establish a climate of peace and reconciliation.

Within this context, the Tunisian archivists have proposed a series of measures to encourage the preservation of archives related to the defence of human rights in Tunisia. They based their recommendations on the lessons learnt from the experiences of South Africa, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and some Latin-American countries, which were presented at the UNESCO conference in Tunis. The recommendations include the adoption of a specific law allowing the victims of the dictator regime (1987-2011) to access their files held by the police. The transfer to the National Archives of the governmental and civil society’s records, which represent vital sources of information on human rights abuses, is another important measure recommended by the Tunisian archivists.

For the last 20 years, UNESCO has been working in collaboration with the International Council of Archives (ICA) for the recognition of the role of archives in the defence of human rights. In October 2011, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Archives, which emphasizes the role of archives for administrative transparency, democratic responsibility and the preservation of collective social memory. At the same time, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme, through its International Register, contributes to the preservation and protection of archival collections that document human rights abuses, but also the history of resistance and fight for democracy and freedoms. All of these initiatives highlight the need to reveal the truth of the past to heal the countries and consolidate democratic values.

The recommendations on the “Archives and the right to know” are available here in French.

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