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HU OSA 318
Fonds 318: Records of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF)

Date(s) 1968-2007 (1984-2007)

Extent and medium 436 Archival boxes, 55 linear meters

Name of creator(s)

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, General Secretariat, Vienna

Administrative/Biographical history

Archival history

The complete archive of IHF was tranferred to OSA in three sequences: the first part was brought to Budapest in 1998, followed by a smaller shipment in 2005; the final transfer of the remaining material was in January 2008. Some electronic documents on external hard drives remained with former IHF employees for verification and weeding. They will be deposited with OSA at a yet undefined date.

After the final closure of IHF in 2007, OSA had maintained the organization's website for three years. The content posted on IHF's website remained in the custody of OSA after 2010, and is available for retrieval on internal databases.

Parts of IHF's historical records have been processed and available for research prior to 2007. However, their archival identification numbers have changed after documents have been added to the collection following IHF's final closure; the previous identifier of those files appear as legacy data on the folder level in the finding aids.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Deposited by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, General Secretariat, Vienna

Scope and content

The fonds contains correspondence, interoffice memos (fax and e-mail), administrative records, mission files, conference and seminar material, press releases, media monitoring materials, newsletters, reports and photographs, as well as electronic records.

The records in this fonds document 25 years of activities (1982-2007) of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF).

IHF was brought to life at the height of worsening US-Soviet relations, by representatives of eighteen Western European and North American countries at a conference in Bellaggio, Italy in September 1982. Its foundation was communicated at a press conference on November 9, during the CSCE meeting in Madrid. The underlying idea was to pull together, orchestrate and intensify the activities of already existing Helsinki monitors and other interest groups in monitoring human rights in the thirty-three signatory states, but first and foremost in the Soviet Union and its Communist allies who, despite having signed the Helsinki Final Act, did little to fulfill its prescriptions.

Backed also by US-based human rights NGOs, most prominently Helsinki Watch, the principal initiator of the foundation of IHF, this European watchdog organization exercised its role by organizing frequent consultations toward building a common strategy among its member committees on the one hand, and on the other, by submitting frequent inquiries and open letters to governments, releasing press statements and conducting fact-finding missions in the countries under their investigation. By embedding itself in CSCE negotiations and winning over the support of neutral and non-aligned delegations, IHF had a greater chance of effectively improving or at least influencing the human rights situation in those countries.

Arranged in several series by themes and document types, the fonds consists of materials on the overall human rights conditions in signatory countries to the Helsinki Final Act (country files), administrative records of the Vienna-based General Secretariat, including extensive correspondence and interoffice memos, files of the Executive Director(s), as well as IHF project and mission files, thematic reference files, OSCE-CSCE related documents, various IHF publications and reports, and finally photographs pertaining to IHF meetings and missions, and thematic sets from other human rights NGOs.

Accruals Not expected

System of arrangement

Conditions governing access

Some files contain sensitive data. Access restrictions to these files are specified in the series and folder level descriptions.

Language/scripts of material

Albanian, B/C/S, Bulgarian, English, French, German, Polish, Russian, Turkish (The language of the materials is indicated on the folder level in the Finding Aids.)

Finding aids

Related materials

Related units of description

Date(s) of descriptions

Processed by Branislav Kovacevic, Oana Girlescu, Ephrem Birhanu, Andrei Voinea, Craita Curteanu and Csaba Szilagyi in 2002-2003, 2012-2013. Description prepared in February 2003 and revised in February-March 2013 by Csaba Szilagyi.
Online version updated 17 May 2013
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