An archive of crime

Guatemala’s Police Archive makes the civil war crimes publicly available

In a windowless hall young women and men with facemasks and gloves sit in long rows sifting through yellowing, dusty books of files.

The staff treat the material with the greatest care. For these files hold priceless information about a grisly chapter in Guatemala’s recent history: this is the historical archive of Guatemala’s National Police. Discovered almost by chance in 2005, it comprises 80 million files going back over 100 years and also documents the period of the civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996. During that period the military, the police and death squads murdered 200,000 people. Another 45,000 disappeared.

The archive is now in the hands of the victims and their families. In Latin America, with its history of brutal military dictatorships, this is unique. medico funds the psychological support of the Police Archive staff who are regularly faced with traumatic histories as they inspect the files. medico is also involved in funding screenings of the film ‘La Isla’ by the German documentary film-maker Ulrich Stelzner, who is documenting the work of the archive.

Published: 15. September 2011

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