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Guatemala Truth Commission

Guatemala Truth Commission (1997-1999) formed in Guatemala is the best known example of truth commissions found in the history. It primarily aimed at the clarification of human rights violation and acts of violence which caused public sufferings in the past.

The background of this breakthrough dates back to mid 1970’s when Guatemala was completely drowned in state repression caused by the conflicts of various militia groups. In 1982, deaths of innocent lives in result of the scorched earth campaign by military caused unavoidable unrest in the country that initiated the talks between URNG and government in 1993 with collaboration of United Nations. On June 23, 1994 successful peace talks resulted in the establishment of this Truth commission whose accord was finally signed in 1996. The duration of the commission was for 2 years with a clear primary mandate of clarifying human rights violations that took place from year 1960 to 1996. It was also coupled with some secondary objectives, described as followed:

  • To put forward the clear evidences of the sufferings of the Guatemalan public in result of the conflicts associated with the military forces.
  • To present a descriptive report of the findings, reporting the details of the process and objective facts and figures on the covered events and steps taken by the members.
  • To provide justice and provoke peace in the state.
  • To foster tolerance among the general public and preserve the memory of the victims.

Throwing light on the structure of this truth commission, it appointed two male and one female commissioner as per the consensus of the parties to the agreement. They were merely responsible for the detailed investigation of the past human rights violations in accordance with the terms and conditions of the stated agreement. However, the members were allowed to ask for extension in the investigation time period, if necessary.

The final report was put forward by the commission to the authorities by February 25, 1999 under the title, Guatemala: Memory of Silence. Though the report was submitted originally in Spanish, but it is also available in English on the official website of American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The major findings of the commission reported that over 200,000 people either gave their lives or were disappeared as outcome of this army-government conflict. Moreover, the acts of violence and human rights violation were mainly attributed to actions by state while a small ratio was attributed to Guerillas.


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