February 11, 1999
Guatemala truth commission completes report

                  GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) -- Despite a climate of fear and limited
                  cooperation from both sides in Guatemala's civil war, a truth commission has
                  completed a probe of atrocities in the 36-year conflict, an official said on

                  The 3,500-page report includes information on some 8,000 massacres,
                  tortures, disappearances and assassinations by both the army and the rebels,
                  most committed when violence peaked in the early 1980s, commission
                  member Otilia Lux de Coti Lux said in an interview.

                  "The content of the report needs to be known by future generations so that
                  this doesn't happen again," said Lux, a Quiche Indian and educator.

                  The Historical Clarification Commission, commonly called the truth
                  commission, will present its report to President Alvaro Arzu, ex-guerrilla
                  leaders and a representative of the United Nations secretary-general at a
                  ceremony on Feb. 25.

                  The report -- which has taken 18 months to complete -- has been criticised
                  by human rights advocates because it will not name individuals and its
                  findings cannot be used to prosecute war criminals.

                  Lux slammed the government and former rebels for refusing to cooperate
                  fully with the commission.

                  "Both gave us unsatisfactory information, but perhaps the guerrillas (the
                  Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit) cooperated more," she told

                  The three-member commission -- lead by German human rights expert
                  Christian Tomuschat and also including Guatemalan lawyer Alfredo Balsells
                  -- was formed under the terms of the 1996 peace accords signed by the
                  government and leftist rebels. The $9.5 million cost of the investigation was
                  90 percent funded by international donors.

                  The commission began in July 1997 to investigate human rights violations
                  committed during Guatemala's 36-year war. For decades a reign of political
                  terror and a tradition of immunity for government officials limited
                  investigations of abuses.

                  But the work of the commission is an important symbolic step in Guatemala's
                  bid to consolidate peace, Lux said.

                  The commission's team of 252 anthropologists, lawyers, sociologists and
                  military experts from 32 different countries interviewed more than 9,000
                  Guatemalans, Lux said.

                  Lux refused to say whether the report will include an estimate of how many
                  died during the war -- a widely-used figure of 150,000 is considered rough
                  -- but said many Guatemalans were afraid to talk to the commission for fear
                  of retaliation.

                  The report will include recommendations for compensation for relatives of
                  victims and will propose sending copies to universities and military
                  academies, she said.

                  Diplomats and other observers have warned the report might stir violence by
                  hardliners opposed to the peace process.

                  Last year, a prominent Roman Catholic bishop was found bludgeoned to
                  death two days after he had presented a separate report blaming the
                  Guatemala's security forces for most of the human rights violations
                  committed during the war.

                  The murder is still under investigation but church officials accuse the army of

                  But Lux was optimistic that change is irreversible in Guatemala. "Like it or
                  not, this report is coming out. All those who oppose change in Guatemala
                  will be left behind," she said.

                     Copyright 1999 Reuters.