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History of CHARGES
Since its founding in 2007, the mission of the University of North Dakota Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies (CHRGS or Center) has been to increase understanding of the history and issues relating to genocide and other violations of human rights with the intent of preventing such atrocities in the future and advancing human rights on all levels. CHRGS works toward this goal by engaging in multidisciplinary projects that facilitate research, teaching and learning, and human rights related service across disciplines. This work is achieved through a variety of approaches such as bringing visiting scholars to campus, organizing classes, discussion forums and cultural events, collecting, preserving and making available important human rights-related historical documents, assisting other human rights organizations and projects, and serving as a regional liaison and clearinghouse for human rights issues and information.
CHRGS was established in 2007 to assist Ethiopian Red Terror torture survivor Hirut Abebe-Jiri create an archive of the documents amassed by the Ethiopian Special Prosecutor's office in trying Mengistu regime Red Terror crimes (CHRGS is still associated with this project). Since then, CHRGS has significantly broadened its range of activities and its accomplishments include:
- Bringing to the UND campus such impressive guests as Auschwitz survivor Martin Weiss (2009), Iranian political prisoner and North Dakota journalist Roxana Saberi (2010), Indian scholar Sudip Chakraborty (2008) and Chinese Judge Xiuyan Guo (2010), British scholar and BBC television personality James Boys, and projects such as "Camp Darfur" (2009 -- a simulated Darfuri refugee tent camp erected on campus);
- Co-sponsoring with Tolerance Minnesota a Holocaust essay competition that has sent winning North Dakota middle school children on all-expenses paid trips to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.;
- Digitizing a portion of UND's original Nuremberg trial transcripts collection to create a "Nazi Crimes in Norway" online archive; and
- Creating and team-teaching a human rights course offered through the UND Honors Program.
Such projects have allowed the Center to tackle themes as diverse as the history of Nazism, survival during genocide, free will in climates of severe political oppression, comparisons between alternative dispute resolution in Native American and Chinese cultures, globalization and social and economic rights and exploitation of child labor in India.
These projects have also increased UND student involvement and enhanced student education and involvement regarding human rights issues. For example, UND students helped digitize and organize the Nazi Occupation of Norway online archive. At the same time, these projects have permitted UND faculty to collaborate with one another across disciplines and with scholars from throughout the United
States and around the world. This collaboration has largely been achieved through panels, roundtables and online symposia.
The projects have also facilitated the Center working, collaborating and communicating with other centers and organizations on campus and in the community, including the UND UAS Center for Research, Education and Training, the UND Conflict Resolution Center, the UND Center for Community Engagement, the UND Global Vision Film Series, the Grand Forks and the Global Friends Coalition. As a result, UND's visibility and reputation as a human rights-oriented institution with a progressive curriculum and culture has been enhanced locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, which has made an important contribution toward President Kelley's goal of transforming UND from great to exceptional.