Memory Laws in European and Comparative Perspectives

1 September 2016 - 31 August 2019

Memory laws enshrine state-approved interpretations of crucial historical events. They commemorate the victims of past atrocities as well as heroic individuals or events emblematic of national and social movements. They date back centuries and continue to spread throughout Europe and the world.

In Sanskrit, the word 'mela' means ‘meeting’ or ‘gathering’. That image recalls the pan-European role of memory laws, but also elicits a paradox. State-constructed memory ‘gathers’ citizens under a mantel of symbolic unity, yet, in a multicultural society, precariously threatens that unity. Questions are: When do memory laws conflict with values of democratic citizenship, political pluralism, or fundamental human rights? Are the punitive laws inevitably abusive? Are the non-punitive ones mostly benign? Are there optimal ways for states to propagate historical memory?

The three-year research project ‘Memory Laws in European and Comparative Perspectives (MELA)’ is a four-nation, EU-sponsored consortium gathered to examine memory laws throughout Europe and the world. The project started in September 2016 and is organised with the financial support of a grant from HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area).

At the Asser Institute, three researchers, Uladzislau Belavusau, León Castellanos-Jankiewicz and Marina Bán (with the help of the project's intern Cris van Eijk) are currently working on the project, in cooperation with the consortium partners in Queen Mary University of London (UK), the University of Bologna (Italy) and the Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland).

Project Website

The project website can be found here

Selected Publications

U. Belavusau & A. Gliszczynska-Grabis (eds.), Law and Memory: Towards Legal Governance of History, Cambridge University Press, 2017.

U. Belavusau & A. Gliszczynska-Grabis, 'Memory Laws: Mapping  New Subject in Comparative Law and Transitional Justice', T.M.C Asser Institute Research Paper3, 2017. 3-28.

U. Belavusau, 'Introductory Note to Perinçek v. Switzerland (2015): Judgement of the Grand Chamber (ECtHR)', International Legal Materials, 55, 2016. 627-629.