The Guardian March 20, 2002


Guatemala: Call for urgent action

The Foundation for Forensic Anthropology of Guatemala (FAFG) has 
appealed for support as its members are receiving death threats in 
Guatemala.

Eleven forensic anthropologists involved in exhumations of clandestine 
cemeteries in the interior of Guatemala received death threats and have 
very good reason to treat the threats seriously.

Background

In February 1999, the historical Clarification Commission (CEH) Report 
estimated that more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared during 
the war which ended in December 1996 with the signing of the Peace Accords.

Of the more than 42,000 cases of violence connected with the armed conflict 
and documented by the CEH, 83 per cent of the victims were Indigenous.

According to the CEH, the state's forces and related paramilitary groups 
were responsible for 93 per cent of the documented violations, including 92 
per cent of arbitrary executions and 91 per cent of forced disappearances. 
Of the 669 massacres registered by the CEH, 626 were the responsibility of 
the state's forces.

It is within this context that the CEH concluded that exhumations and 
identification of the victims will serve as " an act of justice" because 
they are part "of the right to know the truth" as well as allowing the 
surviving families to grieve and bury their dead with dignity, respect and 
in a culturally appropriate manner.

Since 1992, the forensic anthropologists have carried out 191 exhumations 
of more than 2000 victims. In the few legal cases which have come before 
the court and resulted in conviction of those responsible, the forensic 
evidence has been decisive.

Forensic anthropologists do not get money from the government  they are 
funded by the United Nations Development Program, the Soros Foundation of 
Guatemala, the Embassies of the Netherlands, Canada and the USA.

According to the director of the FARG, the work will continue despite the 
threats.

Readers are urged to send an e-mail or a fax calling the authorities in 
Guatemala to investigate the threats against the anthropologists and to 
bring those responsible to justice.

Lic. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera Presidente de la Republica de Guatemala 
Palacio Nacional, 6 Avenida "A" 4-41, Zona 1 Ciudad de Guatemala, 
Guatemala=20 Fax: + 502 238 3579; + 502 221 4423; + 502 2214537.
Email: secgralp@terra.com.gt

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