Archival Science

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 25–44 | Cite as

Khmer Rouge archives: accountability, truth, and memory in Cambodia

Original paper

Abstract

This paper argues that archives play a significant role in fostering three elements essential to Cambodia’s recovery: accountability, truth, and memory. First, archives have an enduring power to hold the regime accountable because they were the catalyst for an international human rights tribunal, as shown by the relentless activism of the archives’ director, international efforts to preserve Khmer Rouge records, and the correlation between indictments and documentary evidence. Secondly, this paper posits that archives make a significant contribution to the establishment of truth because they have epistemological validity over the testimony of survivors, as seen repeatedly throughout the tribunal. Finally, this paper argues that the archives are succeeding in constructing memory of the Khmer Rouge era because it is forcing Cambodia to deal with its uncomfortable past by giving voice to survivors, creating textbooks, and conducting outreach. This paper is rooted in the field of archival studies within the discipline of library and information science, but draws on history, Cambodian studies, and legal studies. Employing transcripts of the ongoing tribunal, NGO reports, and newsletters as primary sources, the paper argues that while archives have been successful in holding the Khmer Rouge accountable, establishing truth, and creating memory, only a tribunal can administer justice.

Keywords

Khmer Rouge archives Human rights Cambodian archives Memory Justice Accountability Evidence Documentation Center of Cambodia 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Library and Information StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMilwaukeeUSA

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