Sun Journal

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — During the 10 years since the end of a civil war that took 200,000 Guatemalan lives, the survivors have faced a recurring frustration: A family comes forward asking for information about a vanished parent, child, husband or wife, only to be told there is no paper trail to help their search.

Now a leaky warehouse crammed floor-to-ceiling with 3 million documents may finally provide answers.

Few families from Guatemala’s Indian majority were spared in the 36-year war and its state-sponsored obliteration of hundreds of villages. On top of the known death toll, some 40,000 people simply disappeared.

Yet even now, after a U.N. truth commission, an apology from President Bill Clinton for the U.S. involvement and the discovery of graves every few days in remote mountain hamlets or jungle camps, much of the truth about what happened remains hidden or buried.

Some of the perpetrators live freely in mansions in Guatemala’s capital, where they remain wealthy, powerful and openly scornful of efforts to hold them accountable for atrocities committed before a peace treaty took effect on Dec. 29, 1996.

However, the June 2005 discovery of the archive of the once-feared, now-defunct National Police may help Guatemala turn a corner.

Human rights workers using high-speed scanners are preserving the decaying documents in an electronic database of evidence that holds the prospect of punishment for the worst atrocities, or at least solid information about what happened to the victims, according to Sergio Morales, Guatemala’s special prosecutor for human rights.

Full article: Sun Journal