Currently viewing the tag: "human rights memorial"

The role of memorials is to remember. As symbolic interpretations of the past, they are sites where memories meet, merge, mismatch and mark relationships between past, present and future. Memorials give the past tangibility and they provide the symbolic space for both celebration, through triumphant monuments, and mourning, through embodying loss. As a result of […]

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The US Naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, GTMO, has been an integral part of American politics and policy for more than a century. Its foundation was laid in 1903, when the US exacted a lease with Cuba granting Cuba total sovereignty over the territory, but the US total jurisdiction – creating a “legal black hole” and laboratory for addressing unprecedented threats. The unique qualities of the site – its legal ambiguity, political isolation and geographic proximity, and architectures of confinement – have been used and reused to detain people who fall between the boundaries of legal protections and political imperatives. Its detention infrastructure was laid long before 9-11: for suspected enemy spies in the Cold War; for over 20,000 Haitian refugees subject to the first mass screening for HIV; for more than 30,000 Cuban rafters rescued at sea held while President Clinton renegotiated immigration laws. Today, facilities for new uses are now being constructed. The 1903 lease with Cuba grants the US total jurisdiction over the bay until both countries agree to end the arrangement. For better or for worse, then, GTMO is open and available for any future administration to use – in the War on Terror or otherwise. How did we get here? What should happen next?

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Discussions among the Coalition have suggested that memorials for human rights can seek to build a heritage of conscience: Such heritage would be based on a collective memory of moral acts and choices, of cruelty, compassion, and courage. Memorials could offer a space for the ongoing interrogation of the nature of those choices, the reasons for them, and what they suggest for the future. In other words, human rights memorials can develop a heritage of doing rather than being – an identity based in action. Not who we were in the past and who we are today, but what we did do in the past and what we want to do today.

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This is why human rights need memorial practices. Human rights memorials and memorial museums, of necessity and of design, split memory in half: honoring the painful experiences of those who suffered abuse and rekindling the aspirations of a society to reject acceptance of such suffering. Memorials assert that the schism cannot be made whole again; it must be lived with or else suffered anew.

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Left behind was a society scarred by the darkest period in Ethiopia’s modern history; a massive and systematic elimination of human lives, and essentially, one of the gravest human rights violations that has occurred in the history of the nation.

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Because of our country’s painful racist past, South Africans tend to see all human rights violations through the prism of white vs black. Learning about the Holocaust, where, in very general terms, whites killed whites and Rwanda where blacks murdered blacks is hugely important.

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