Conceived and launched by CJA and UC Hastings Professor Naomi Roht-Arriaza, and led by Kate Doyle from the National Security Archive, this project developed evidence supporting litigation for the Guatemalan genocide in Guatemalan and Spanish courts and before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. CJA’s principal collaborators were the National Security Archive, the Myrna Mack Foundation and Impunity Watch. The project was an investigative effort aimed at consolidating and indexing documentation on the Guatemalan army and security forces in an authoritative computer database and narrative report for use in the genocide case and future human-rights related legal actions.
Piecing Together a Genocide, Document by Document
In April 2009, the Guatemala Evidence Project (the Project) completed the first phase of analysis and created a comprehensive chronology of the Guatemalan Civil War. The Project reviewed all U.S. declassified documents in the National Security Archive’s possession from the period 1978-86, including: 582 documents from our published collection; several hundreds more unpublished documents. 50 records of the Guatemalan Armed Forces; and 165 of the Army’s General Orders. The Project created a database, incorporating 542 U.S. and Guatemalan records related to the period spanning the governments of Fernando Romeo Lucas García, Efraín Ríos Montt, and Óscar Mejía Victores. The records were indexed according to: (i) title, document type, and origin, (ii) names of military units and officials, and (iii) key terms taken from the records such as “government-sponsored violence,” “human rights violations,” “death squads,” “political violence,” and “massacres.”
Fernando Triana from the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia, collaborated with the Project and conducted a closer examination of the records and created a chronology of events with annexed documents specifically tailored to substantiate the Spanish charges in the Genocide Case. On the basis of the guidelines provided by the Project’s Steering Committee, he searched the documents relevant to human rights violations that took place in the Mayan ‘Ixil Triangle’ and other relevant areas affected during the Guatemalan Civil War. Additionally, Triana undertook a search of all documents that in any way linked Fernando Romeo Lucas García, Benedicto Lucas García, Ángel Aníbal Guevara Rodríguez, José Efraín Ríos Montt, Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores, Germán Chupina Barahona, Donaldo Álvarez Ruiz, and Pedro García Arredondo to human rights violations during the conflict. The final product of the analyst’s work was the complete chronology featuring entries linked to PDF versions of 220 of the most relevant U.S. and Guatemalan files.
The Project’s report also included a ground breaking finding: the existence of a series of document that make up “Plan Sofía”, which details official responsibility on the acts of genocide against the Mayan people. With all of this information in hand, the documents were then analyzed with respect to the criminal responsibility of the named defendants. A summary of the analysis and a formal report was presented by CJA to the Spanish National Court in the Guatemalan Genocide Case and was later used in the trial against former Dictator Rios Montt in Guatemala.