Guatemala Truth Commission Report Released Print
February 26, 1999
from Guatemala News & Information Bureau

Contact: Daniel Wilkinson, Lowenstein Project, Yale Law School (203) 432-4808

Guatemala Truth Commission to Release Report Detailing Human Rights Abuses during Brutal Civil War

The Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission will today release its long-awaited report documenting the human rights abuses committed during the country's 36-year civil war.

"The release of the report will be a major turning point in Guatemalan history," says historian Gregory Grandin, former Clarification Commission consultant and a Director of Yale University's Lowenstein Project, which is coordinating efforts by human rights advocates to draw international attention to this report.

As the first official documentation of human rights abuses, says Grandin, "the report should force Guatemala?and the world?to come to terms with the staggering human costs of one of the most brutal conflicts of the twentieth century."

Guatemalan human rights leaders, who campaigned over a decade for the creation of the commission, have eagerly awaited the results of the investigation. According to Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum, "The need to know the truth about the atrocities committed in the recent past has generated enormous expectations for this report."

The report is expected to attribute the vast majority of violations, including genocide, torture, and forced disappearances, to Guatemalan government officials. The report is also expected to document U.S. involvement in Guatemala's internal politics, including training and funding some of the worst human rights violators.

The report promises to be a major step toward ending decades of impunity in Guatemala. To date, there have been no convictions of high-ranking military officers responsible for human rights abuses. Intimidation of witnesses, attorneys and judges has stymied efforts to prosecute. "Even though we have already had four civilian governments, military officers remain untouchable," says prominent human rights advocate Helen Mack.

Previous efforts to document the atrocities have met with violent resistance. Last year, Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi was murdered two days after presenting the results of the Church's unofficial truth commission in a report entitled "Guatemala: Never Again."

Human rights leaders insist that the government must end impunity by prosecuting those responsible for past violations. "After clarification, there must be reparation," says Mario Polanco, coordinator of the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, an organization of victims of political violence. "The government must take responsibility for the human rights violations and make reparations for the harm they caused."

Human rights leaders also insist that, given its important role in the conflict, the U.S. has a duty to contribute to the process of ending impunity in Guatemala. In particular, the U.S. government should be more forthcoming in releasing classified documents that identify human rights violators.