Today marks the opening of the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt, former Guatemalan army general and dictator, who is being charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. Guatemala's truth commission report, issued in 1999, put the death toll at 200,000 during the course of an almost 40-year civil war. In a press release, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated "This is the first time, anywhere in the world, that a former head of State is being put on trial for genocide by a national tribunal.” The prosecution will turn to an extensive body of documentation, including military records, government documents, and the testimony of 142 witnesses in making its case. It is the exception and not the rule to see so much documentation survive a conflict.
Columbia Libraries and its Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research (CHRDR) provide a gateway to learning about and researching this conflict and the transitional justice process now unfolding. Some recommended resources:
- CHRDR's archives, especially the records of Amnesty International USA and Americas Watch (Human Rights Watch). These collections document human rights monitoring and advocacy from the 1960s to 1990s.
- Digital National Security Archive, Death Squads, Guerrilla War, Covert Operations, and Genocide: Guatemala and the United States, 1954-1999, declassified U.S. government documents.
- NACLA Digital Archive, news and analysis of Latin America with coverage of Guatemala from the 1960s-present.
- Human Rights Web Archive, a CHRDR initiative to preserve human rights websites.
- Daniel Rothenberg's one volume edition of the Guatemalan Truth Commission Report, Memory of Silence; the original 12 volume report, and an online edition.
Recommended subject searches in our library catalog, CLIO Beta:
Beyond Columbia Libraries:
- The Trial of Efraín Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, news and analysis via the Open Society Justice Initiative.
- Digital Archive of the Guatemalan National Police, via the University of Texas at Austin.
- Operation Sofia: Documenting Genocide in Guatemala, electronic briefing book by the National Security Archive at GWU.