Memorialization generally refers to the process of preserving memories of people or events. It can be a form of address or petition, or a ceremony of remembrance or commemoration.[1][2]

Memorialization as a Human Right

Memorialization is a universal need for both those being memorialized and those who are grieving. Although historically it was limited to the elite and only practiced in the highest societal classes, it is now almost considered a fundamental human right for all people.[3]

Memorialization and Transitional Justice

In the context of transitional justice, memorialization is used to honor the victims of human rights abuses. Memorials can help governments reconcile tensions with victims by demonstrating respect and acknowledging the past. They can also help to establish a record of history, and to prevent the recurrence of abuse.[4]

Memorials can also be serious social and political forces in democracy-building efforts.[5]

Memorials are also a form of reparations, or compensation efforts that seek to address past human rights violations.[6] They aim to provide compensation for losses endured by victims of abuse, and remedy prior wrongdoing. They also publicly recognize that victims are entitled to redress and respect. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation recognizes “commemorations and tributes to the victims” as a form of reparation.[7]

There are numerous types of memorials used as transitional justice initiatives. These include architectural memorials, museums, and other commemorative events. For instance, in northern Uganda, monuments, annual prayer ceremonies, and a mass grave were created in response to the war conducted by and against the Lord’s Resistance Army there.[8]

Another example is the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile, which was created to document abuses by the former military dictatorship there.[9]

Challenges of Memorialization

Memorialization can arouse controversy and present certain risks. In unstable political situations, memorials may increase desire for revenge and catalyze further violence. They are highly politicized processes that represent the will of those in power. They are thus difficult to shape, and international relief workers, peacekeepers, and NGOs risk being drawn into disputes about the creation or maintenance of memorial sites. Yet they also have the potential to redress historical grievances and enable societies to progress.[10]

See also

Further reading

External links


  1. "Memorialization". Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Online ed.).
  2. "Memorialisation". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. "Memorialized". 2002.
  4. "Truth and Memory". International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).
  5. Brett, Sebastian; Bickford, Louis; Ševčenko, Liz; Rios, Marcela (2007). Memorialization and Democracy: State Policy and Civic Action (PDF) (Report). International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).
  6. Buckley-Zistel, S. / Schäfer, S. (eds.) (2014). Memorials in Times of Transition. Antwerp: Intersentia. ISBN 9781780682112.
  7. General Assembly of the United Nations (21 March 2006). Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 60/147 of 16 December 2005 (Report). Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  8. Hopwood, Julian (February 2011). We Can’t Be Sure Who Killed Us: Memory and Memorialization in Post-conflict Northern Uganda (PDF) (Report). International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).
  9. "Sobre el Museo". Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (in Spanish). 20 April 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  10. Barsalou, Judy; Baxter, Victoria (1 January 2007). The Urge to Remember: The Role of Memorials in Social Reconstruction and Transitional Justice (PDF). United States Institute of Peace (Report). Stabilization and Reconstruction.
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