Trudy Huskamp Peterson

Certified Archivist

Commentary: The Year in Review

As we start a new year and look back on the tumult of the one just past, here are items from each month of HRWG News in 2018 that, taken together, illustrate the diversity of human rights issues that include archives. Best wishes for the year ahead!

 January.  One of the twins born of a Canadian surrogate mother from the mixed sperm of two male donors was found, through DNA testing, to be the child of the U.S. citizen donor, so the child was automatically a U.S. citizen and entitled to a U.S. passport, and the other twin, born of an Israeli donor, was not.

 February.  Setting an important precedent, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an advisory opinion that a healthy environment is a right “fundamental to the existence of humanity” and that States must avoid causing “significant” environmental damage inside or outside their territory and provide access to information related to potential environmental harms.

 March.  The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan took over 230 detailed individual witness statements and gathered over 58,000 documents, including confidential records, covering incidents in South Sudan since December 2013, but warned that “every day . . . documentary evidence is lost, concealed or destroyed.”

 April.  U.S. police compared DNA collected from a 1980 crime scene with DNA data on the genealogy website GEDmatch and found distant relatives of the suspect, who was arrested.

 May.  A study found that physicians who use stigmatizing language in their patients’ medical records may affect the care those patients get for years to come.

 June.  Using massive quantities of video footage of the February 2014 protests in Kiev, Ukraine, a research team reconstructed the deaths of three protesters to identify the sources of the bullets that killed them and created a composited video that was accepted as evidence by the criminal court hearing a case against five police officers.  

 July.  Germany’s Federal Court of Justice ruled that heirs should have access to the Facebook accounts of the deceased.

 August.  Israel’s Justice Minister instructed the Israel State Archives to release some 300,000 files relating to the children of Yemeni immigrants, whose disappearance after their arrival in Israel over a half century ago has been at the center of a lingering controversy.

 September.  India’s Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the government’s massive biometric identification and registration project, Aadhaar, but with restrictions.

 October.  The Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway, used 20 years of statistical studies on the relationship between education and political violence and found the “lack of male education appears to be the strongest predictor of conflict.” 

 November.  A Canadian judge ruled in favor of access to records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, citing the ICA position on access.

 December.  DNA tests on ancient remains in Australia and on samples from Indigenous people living in the area where the remains were found show clear links; this may enable repatriation of Indigenous human remains when provenance documentation is lacking.