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
The report will include recommendations for compensation for relatives
victims and will propose sending copies to universities and military
academies, she said.
Diplomats and other observers have warned the report might stir violence
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
But Lux was optimistic that change is irreversible in Guatemala. "Like
not, this report is coming out. All those who oppose change in Guatemala
will be left behind," she said.
Copyright 1999 Reuters.