The Genocide Documentation Project, launched in January 2013 in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, explores the failures of the international community to prevent or effectively respond to past cases of genocide. Through detailed case studies, the project’s research seeks to inform international policies regarding the prevention of and response to genocide and mass atrocity. By examining the role of the international community in past incidents of genocidal violence, these case studies help shape the views of a new generation of policymakers both within the United States and around the world.
The project consists of three components:
- Comprehensive documentation collections, including newly declassified documents released through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, compiled into series of carefully researched briefing books.
- Oral history video interviews with a diverse group of key actors, including victims and perpetrators, peacekeepers and diplomats, eyewitnesses and government officials, and scholars and journalists.
- International 'critical oral history' conferences bringing together key participants and new collections of documents to evaluate decision-making of past genocides and advocate for more effective policies for future conflicts.
The documents, oral history interviews, and conference reports are published online to educate the general public, policymakers, and other scholars.
In 2014, the National Security Archive launched the “#Rwanda20yrs” campaign to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Historians now believe that around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed following the mysterious assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. During the first three frenzied weeks of the killing, the international community made a series of decisions that facilitated the genocide, including withdrawing most of the UN peacekeepers from Rwanda. To this day, senior U.S. officials maintain they were unaware of the full horror of events unfolding in the faraway central African country, despite numerous pleas for intervention from desperate eyewitnesses.
The campaign culminated in a critical oral history conference at The Hague Institute for Global Justice that convened a roundtable of 35 key UN and government officials and scholars involved in the response to the Rwanda crisis in 1994. Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, the former Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), prominent Rwandan human rights activist and survivor Monique Mujawamaria, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Prudence Bushnell were among the conference participants.
National Security Archive staff prepared a two-volume briefing book containing 149 key documents for conference participants to help ground the discussions in historical evidence, as well as a 248-page conference transcript and 30-page rapporteurs’ report. These publications, featured in The New York Times, are now available to the public to support further research and analysis.
During a four-day period, July 12-16, 1995, Bosnian Serb troops killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the designated UN “safe area” of Srebrenica. Marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in July 2015, a critical oral history conference, sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Hague Institute for Global Justice, brought together former officials and eyewitnesses from Europe, North America, Asia, and the UN to examine the series of decisions leading up to the fall of Srebrenica.
Participants in the Srebrenica conference included former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Yasushi Akashi, former European peace negotiator Carl Bildt, former commander of UN forces in Bosnia General Sir Rupert Smith, Srebrenica survivor Muhamed Durakovic, and three former members of the UN Security Council. The wartime Bosnian government was represented by Hasan Muratovic, the minister responsible for relations with the international community, and former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija.
The conference, featured in The Atlantic, looked critically at the designation of the Srebrenica enclave as a UN-designated “safe area” and its tragic fall upon the arrival of Bosnian Serb forces. Ignoring pleas for close air support from Dutch peacekeepers, UN and NATO officials did nothing to prevent the fall of the “protected” enclave and there is continued controversy over who is to blame for the failure of a major international peacekeeping effort.