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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 06:33 GMT
Guatemala 'to open war archives'
By Piers Scholfield
BBC News, Guatemala City

Guatemala's President, Alvaro Colom, 5 November 2007
Mr Colom's announcement was welcomed by human rights groups
Military archives spanning nearly four decades of civil war in Guatemala will be opened to the public, the country's President Alvaro Colom has announced.

Some 250,000 civilians were killed or disappeared in the 36-year conflict, which was ended in 1996 by a UN-sponsored peace agreement.

Mr Colom made Monday's announcement from the balcony of the National Palace overlooking Guatemala's Central Square. Demonstrators had gathered from all over the country to hear the news.

"We are going to make all of the army's archives public so we can know the truth, to start building on a foundation of truth and justice," Mr Colom told the hundreds-strong crowd.

They represented all the Guatemalans seeking justice for crimes committed during the war.

Those crimes include the killings of an estimated 200,000 civilians and 50,000 forced disappearances.

Scepticism voiced

A UN truth commission in 1999 established that the army and state security apparatus were responsible for more than 90% of the deaths.

Questions remain over how any discovery would be used as evidence in court against serving or retired officers

But until now, no government has been willing to commit itself to further investigations.

Human rights organisations welcomed Monday's announcement as a positive step but some have voiced scepticism about how any investigation might proceed.

Questions remain over how any discovery would be used as evidence in court against serving or retired officers.

Reaction from the powerful military establishment, meanwhile, has been swift.

The opposition leader, retired general Otto Perez Molina, who lost the presidential election to Mr Colom only three months ago, called the announcement a political stunt.

He said there would be no evidence in the archives of orders to kill innocent people.

SEE ALSO
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Country profile: Guatemala
25 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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