Published: Jan. 20, 1999

The Archives of the University of Colorado at Boulder today announced the acquisition of 20 years of files amassed by the nation's pre-eminent non-governmental human rights organization, the New York-based Human Rights Watch, according to Archives Curator Bruce Montgomery.

Montgomery made the announcement today on behalf of CU-Boulder's Human Rights Initiative, a project of the Archives which has made it the largest academic repository of contemporary non-governmental human rights material in the world.

In recent years, the Archives has announced the acquisition of several landmark collections, including the captured Iraqi Secret Police files in 1998, which were removed from Iraq by Kurdish rebels at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Other major acquisitions include Amnesty International, the Soviet Jewry Archive and Physicians for Human Rights.

The Human Rights Watch Archives have never before been available for public scrutiny, Montgomery said, making the decision of the organization's governing board to relinquish the documents a historic one. That decision also presents certain challenges for the university as caretaker and an element of risk for individuals whose situations could be exposed by the transfer of the documents, he said.

According to Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, documentation of human rights abuses is central to the success of the cause. "The power of the human rights movement derives from its ability to expose, document and publicize the atrocities that tyrants work desperately to keep hidden," he notes.

"Human Rights Watch chose to entrust the archives of our investigative and documentation efforts to the University of Colorado because, as the largest repository of such material in the United States, it has a strong track record of treating this working history of the fight against repression with the care and sensitivity that it deserves."

Acquisition of the Human Rights Watch material confirms CU-Boulder's human rights collection as the world's foremost, said Chancellor Richard L. Byyny.

"The Human Rights Watch acquisition is the capstone of this magnificent collection of material that our Archives has carefully amassed since 1992," Byyny said. "We are honored to be able to say that the University of Colorado is now the central clearinghouse for all the world's major post-Holocaust human rights documents."

Since its founding in 1978, Human Rights Watch has conducted regular, systematic investigations of human rights abuses in more than 70 countries around the world, addressing human rights practices of governments of all political stripes, geopolitical alignments, and of all ethnic and religious persuasions.

"We anticipate that the availability of these vast archives will revolutionize research, scholarship, and public education efforts on behalf of human rights worldwide," said Montgomery. "There can be no real effort made on behalf of human rights education unless the human rights historical legacy is preserved and intact. The University of Colorado at Boulder is deeply gratified to provide this service."

Human Rights Watch defends freedom of thought and expression, due process and equal protection through law, and a vigorous civil society. It documents and denounces murders, disappearances, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, discrimination and other abuses of human rights recognized internationally.

The organization was in the forefront of the worldwide campaign to establish a permanent International Criminal Court, which will try people accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity anywhere in the world where national courts are unavailable or ineffective.

Human Rights Watch began in 1978 with the founding of its Europe and Central Asia division, then known as Helsinki Watch. Today it also includes divisions covering Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East. It also includes three thematic divisions on arms, children's rights and women's rights. The organization maintains offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, London, Brussels, Moscow, Dushanbe, Rio de Janeiro, Tashkent, Tblisi and Hong Kong.

Gerard A. Hauser, professor and chair of the department of communication at CU-Boulder, praised the value of the materials for research: "These records will be extremely valuable to researchers and students who seek to understand the cause of human rights and the types of individual, institutional and state action that may prove effective in safeguarding against their violation."

Human Rights Watch materials are now on site at CU-Boulder, Montgomery said.

Human Rights Watch Archives Facts

o The Human Rights Watch Archives contain a vast array of primary evidence pertaining to human rights and humanitarian violations worldwide.

o Materials include:

** a massive assortment of photographs, videotapes and audiotapes;

** case files and investigative and other research data related to violations of international human rights;

** extensive external communications with governments, the United Nations, regional human rights bodies, and a large network of non-governmental human rights organizations throughout the world;

** internal communications pertaining to the founding, development (including international expansion), and internal policies and agendas of Human Rights Watch;

** country reports, analyses and policy documents;

** a wide array of other types of documentation.

CU-Boulder Archives Human Rights Acquisitions

Soviet Jewry Collection

(including Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry and affiliated organizations, National Conference on Soviet Jews, and Women's 35's for Soviet Jewry)

Physicians for Human Rights

Amnesty International

Tutela Legal

(the Human Rights unit of the Archdiocese of San Salvador founded by Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador)

Socorro Juridico Cristiano

(El Salvadoran human rights organization)

Human Rights Commission of El Salvador

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (based in Geneva)

Humanitas International Committee for Human Rights (founded by Joan Baez)

Captured Iraqi Secret Police Files

Human Rights Watch

Contact List

Human Rights Watch Archives

University of Colorado at Boulder

Bruce Montgomery

Curator and Head of Archives, CU-Boulder

Founder of Human Rights Initiative

Kenneth Roth

Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Patrick Mingus

Director of Publications, Human Rights Watch

(can address any issue related to Human Rights Watch investigative materials)

Gerard Hauser

Professor and Chair, Department of Communication, CU-Boulder

(scholarly expert on human rights; can address the research value of Human Rights Watch Archives)