Washington D.C., November 21, 2005 - The National Security Archive has posted a slide show of photographs documenting the stunning discovery of police records in Guatemala, as reported in the New York Times today. The photos are accompanied by a description of the police files by the Archive's Guatemala Project Director Kate Doyle, who first visited them in early August.
The discovery was made in July, when human rights investigators found by accident an enormous cache of abandoned files from Guatemala's brutal former National Police forces, documents that may contain information about the fates of hundreds of disappeared citizens. It is an extraordinary development in a country that suffered a savage civil conflict from 1960-1996, resulting in more civilian deaths and disappearances than any other nation in the western hemisphere; according to a United Nations-sponsored truth commission, more than 90 percent of those atrocities were committed by government security forces.
"Guatemalans have never stopped looking for true history and hard evidence about the state's hand in massive human rights atrocities," notes Kate Doyle. "The police files promise a wealth of new information about events that have been distorted for decades by government lies and a silence imposed by violence. It is a thrilling discovery."
Since the discovery, the National Security Archive has been working with Guatemala's Human Rights Ombudsman, non-governmental human rights organizations and other civil society groups to rescue the documents and design a strategy for their long-term protection, recovery and archival restoration so that they may be opened to the public. This historical salvage mission is intended to secure these records of repression, restore them to readable form, and organize them into what promises to be the largest and most revealing collection of 'dirty war' documentation ever unearthed in Latin America.