San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Activists Hail Discovery Of Old Police Records

GUATEMALA CITY (EFE) –Guatemalan human rights groups lastSaturday hailed the discovery by theNational Ombudsman’s Office of long-forgottenpolice files covering the period ofthe country’s bloody 1960-1996 civil war.Representatives of more than 50 organizationsissued a statement saying thatlast week’s find of the documents belongingto the now-defunct National Policerenews hopes of locating the bodies of“disappeared” victims and bringing theirkillers to justice.The existence of the archives – foundin offices once occupied by an also defunctmilitary police force – becamepublic July 16 with the issuance of a courtorder protecting the files pending reviewby the staff of National OmbudsmanSergio Morales, who said it could take upto five years to scrutinize them.But Interior Minister Carlos Vielmansought to downplay the discovery, sayingthe police files had been kept in the samelocation since 1930 and that no one hadventured into the derelict offices becausethey were infested with bats and vermin.While professing ignorance about theircontents, he said the archives might containthe rap sheets of criminal suspects.Human rights activists, meanwhile,said Saturday that the files could detailcovert operations by the force known asthe PN, which was replaced with a newnational police agency under the terms ofthe 1996 accords ending Guatemala’sinternal conflict.Authorities stumbled onto the archivesin the process of moving ordnance out ofthe former police offices to a militarybase.At a press conference last weekend,human rights campaigner Miguel AngelAlbizuris pointed out that the recordswere found at facilities once used by thenotorious Treasury Police, whose deathsquads targeted leaders of unions andgrassroots groups.Guatemala’s civil war claimed some200,000 lives, with most of the victimsperishing in massacres and targetedkillings that a church-sponsored truthcommission blamed on securityforces.

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