The right to memory and truth, one of the pillars of transitional justice, is directly related to access to and dissemination of information on practices of serious human rights violations. Moreover, it is a key element in the consolidation of democracy, incorporating awareness of the facts in the collective national memory, so that the past does not repeat itself.
This right concerns both victims and their families and society as a whole and is directly linked to the understanding that states, after living periods of exception, have obligations in terms of justice, reparation, memory and truth. In Brazil, for example, the right to memory and truth is recognized, since the most recent National Human Rights Plan (PNHD-3) as a human right of citizenship and state duty.
Thus, initiatives such as the creation of places of remembrance on human rights violations, appreciation of cultural history and socialization of knowledge become central to the preservation of historical memory and the public construction of truth.
In this context, sites of memory gain relevance, since they allow the construction of memories linked to episodes considered traumatic to be boosted. But, what are places of remembrance? In this week’s post, we present this concept and CJT’s new project.
What are remembrance places?
The concept of remembrance places is associated with the search for societies to transform places that were the scene of traumatic memories into objects of consciousness construction.
This concept spread after 1984, with a publication organized by the historian Pierre Nora, Les Lieux de Memoire, in which he defends the need to create places charged with symbolism for the preservation of memory. Since then the concept has spread around the world and received other contours. According to a research conducted by the Institute of Public Policies on Human Rights of Mercosur (IPPDH), memory places are today associated with at least three concepts:
- places that are meaningful for a community and allow for the development of memory-building processes linked to certain traumatic or painful episodes;
- places built specifically for memory work (museums, monuments, etc.) but which do not necessarily have a physical, emotional or symbolic link with the events they seek to evoke;
- physical places where serious human rights violations have been committed (prisons, clandestine detention centers, military facilities, etc.).
Regardless of the conception adopted, however, the installation of sites of memory has the role of retrieving and transmitting knowledge about the traumatic past, as well as repairing the victims and society in general. They are ways of dealing with the trauma and silence produced by the official discourse, aiming at the transition to democracy and to guarantee non-repetition of these facts.
Worldwide, there are several institutions that address traumatic memories and systematic violations of human rights in general. Among the initiatives that have become a reference for the way they deal with this type of memory, we can mention:
- Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos, Buenos Aires (Argentina);
- Corporación Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi and Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago (Chile);
- Museo de la Memoria, Montevideo (Uruguai);
- Memorial da Resistência, São Paulo (Brasil);
- Holocaust Memorial, Berlin (Germany);
- Peace Museum, Freetown (Sierra Leone).
- Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg (South Africa).
The Places of Remembrance project joins Democratizing
One of the projects of the Centro de Estudos sobre Justiça de Transição (Study Center of Transitional Justice – CJT/UFMG) is the mapping of memory sites related to the period of the military dictatorship in Brazil. Relevant work was carried out by the Comissão Especial de Mortos e Desaparecidos Políticos (Special Commission on Political Dead and Missing Persons – CEMDP), which is linked to the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights. CEMDP has georeferenced 222 sites on its website, mostly related to cases of people dead or missing in the country.
Considering this important mapping, identifying the physical spaces in which human rights violations were committed, the Centre’s team of researchers and volunteers have dedicated themselves to research, state by state, places and initiatives that can be understood in a more comprehensive concept of places of remembrance, focusing on effective actions and practices that guarantee the right to memory and truth. Thus, the objective is to draw an overview of the memory policies in the country and to understand how the legacy of violence of the period of exception under which Brazil lived for twenty-one years is publicly acknowledged.
Starting in the coming weeks, Democratizing will join this project. In addition to the biweekly posts about the challenges of democracy today, we will also have biweekly posts about Brazilian memory sites on CJT’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. In this way, we hope to contribute to the appreciation of history and the dissemination of knowledge, highlighting the importance of these initiatives in the fight against new threats to democracy.
Working with the different conceptions of places of remembrance, we will present the results in phases, starting with those that are configured as memorialization initiatives in delimited physical spaces. According to SOARES AND QUINALHA (2013) memorialization reflects an effort of conscious construction and political choice, with actions and practices that allow sheltering the violent past in a perspective of valorization and respect for human rights. Thus, as the first example of an institution that effectively seeks to transform memory into action, working as a link between past and present, the post that will inaugurate the series dedicated to memory places will be about the Memorial of Resistance of São Paulo. We await you!
By Ana Carolina Rezende Oliveira  e Pauline Louise Araújo Silva 
MPF questions Damares about destination of the Memorial de Anistia building –
Memory, forgiveness and promise, by Tayara Talita Lemos – http://www.bibliotecadigital.ufmg.br/dspace/handle/1843/BUOS-ASWEKU
1 PhD Candidate at UFMG’s Law School. Bachelor in Law by Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Researcher at CJT/UFMG.
2 Graduate candidate in Citizenship and Human Rights in the context of Public Policy at PUC-MG. Bachelor in Museology by Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. She was a researcher at Minas Gerais Truth Comission and CJT/UFMG.