Historical Clarification Commission

Historical Clarification Commission

The Historical Clarification Commission (Spanish: Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico, or CEH) was Guatemala's truth and reconciliation commission.

The creation of the CEH was ordered by the Oslo Accords of 1994 that sought to bring an end to the Central American nation's three-decade-long Civil War, during which an estimated 200,000 people lost their lives. Its mandate was to investigate the numerous human rights violations perpetrated by both sides in the armed conflict; succinctly put, to inform Guatemalan society about exactly what had happened in the country between January 1962 and the signing of the Agreement on a Firm and Lasting Peace on 29 December 1996. In the terms used by the 23 June 1994 Accord by means of which it was established:

  1. To clarify with all objectivity, equity and impartiality the human rights violations and acts of violence that have caused the Guatemalan population to suffer, connected with the armed conflict.
  2. To prepare a report that will contain the findings of the investigations carried out and provide objective information regarding events during this period covering all factors, internal as well as external.
  3. Formulate specific recommendations to encourage peace and national harmony in Guatemala. The Commission shall recommend, in particular, measures to preserve the memory of the victims, to foster a culture of mutual respect and observance of human rights and to strengthen the democratic process.

The Commission had three members: Christian Tomuschat, a German international lawyer, and the Guatemalans Alfredo Balsells Tojo, a jurist, and Otilia Lux de Cotí, an expert in indigenous affairs. The CEH's members heard testimony from thousands of survivors and attended exhumations of clandestine graves; they also interviewed former heads of state and ranking members of the military of Guatemala and pored over thousands of pages of NGO reports. All this was used in the preparation of its final report, titled Guatemala: Memory of Silence, which was published in February 1999. The report identified a total of 42,275 named victims; of these, 23,671 were victims of arbitrary executions, and 6,159 were victims of forced disappearances. It found that Maya Native Americans accounted for 83% of the victims, and that 93% of the atrocities committed during the conflict had been the work of the armed forces.

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