Human Rights Studies Online | Alexander Street
Human Rights Studies Online

Human Rights Studies Online

In the 20th century alone, more than 20 million people died as a result of genocide. Still millions of others endured violence, oppression, and violations of their basic human rights, yet survived to tell their stories. Genocide and atrocity crimes show humanity at its worst. They lead us to question our very nature—what it means to be human. Despite their horrors, they must be documented and they must be studied. In doing so, we hope to understand them. We memorialize their victims. We help prevent their re-occurrences. We discover the striking ordinariness of the perpetrators, and ask what we would have done in similar circumstances. We see heroic actions that show that even in humanity’s darkest moments there is still cause for hope.

About the collection

Learning about human rights violations is often a complex and labor-intensive process; it is difficult for students and scholars to find documentation that represents multiple perspectives and addresses the full scope of the events. Human Rights Studies Online is a research and learning database providing in one place comprehensive, comparative documentation, analysis, and interpretation of major human rights violations and atrocity crimes worldwide. The collection is growing to include 75,000 pages of text and 150 hours of video that give voice to the countless victims of human rights crimes in the 20th and early 21st centuries.
The collection provides primary and secondary materials across multiple media formats and content types for each selected event, including Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Darfur, and more than 30 additional subjects. Resources for each topic guide users through the full scope of the event, from the historical context that made such violations possible through the international response, prosecution of perpetrators, and steps toward rebuilding.

Resources to support the study of the events will include upon completion:

  • Contemporary personal accounts and artifacts such as a sample of diaries, letters, individual papers, and personal items—identity cards, ration cards, government records such as arrest warrants and documentation of confiscation of property and forcible detention—that allow students to understand the impact of policies on individuals.
  • Contemporaneous television footage, photographs, and NGO press releases that show how events were portrayed in the media as they took place, as well as the efforts of NGOs to raise public awareness of these atrocity crimes.
  • Government, NGO, and court documentation, including memos, reports, court transcripts, and testimonies from victims and witnesses, many of which have never before been available digitally.
  • Documentaries, interviews, monographs, essays, and articles that help contextualize the primary sources and clarify the breadth of the events.
  • Selected works of arts and literature that memorialize those affected by the crimes and capture efforts at reconciliation.
  • Reference material such as maps, bibliographies, chronologies, and newly commissioned essays that provide key overviews and analyses of events.
  • Links to third-party web content, including resources local and contemporaneous to the events.
The project is curated with assistance from an advisory board of respected scholars in the field. Content is provided by preeminent historical archives as well as video partners including—an organization with more than 20 years of experience using video as an advocacy tool for addressing human rights violations and fostering change. Other respected content partners include Journeyman Pictures, Chip Taylor Communications, NARA Archives, Basic Books, and the Harvard University Press.
These materials work together to help explore significant questions and themes such as how these violations could have been prevented, what common patterns are associated with these crimes, and what impact can be made by government intervention.


Human Rights Studies Online is a key component of the Global Issues Library :



Considering current events, this curated collection offers students and researchers a range of excellent primary sources and coverage extensive enough to suit historical researchers and those seeking context for more recent news events. Highly recommended.

CHOICE Reviews

As compelling and challenging as it is comprehensive, Human Rights Studies Online is an immensely valuable, even unparalleled, resource not only for expanding awareness about mass atrocity crimes—genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity—and other human rights abuses but also for encouraging resistance against them. Its content can bring one to tears but inspire defiance as well.

John K. Roth, Edward J. Sexton Professor of Philosophy Emeritus Claremont McKenna College

Human Rights Studies Online is an impressive and invaluable collection that pulls together the documents, history and first person accounts of modern human rights atrocities.

Elizabeth Becker International Affairs Journalist

This is an invaluable resource for any institutions with programs in political science, peace studies, or just a firm commitment to educate students on social justice issues.

Kellian Clink, Reference Librarian Minnesota State University