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Accountability in Guatemala: The Role of Forensic Anthropology

  • When
  • March 26, 2014
    6:00–11:30 a.m. (EDT)
  • Where
  • Open Society Foundations–New York
    224 West 57th Street
    New York, NY 10019
    United States of America
  • Programs
  • Open Society Justice Initiative

Genocide, Forensic Anthropology, and Legal Testimony


Guatemala is at a crossroads. Last year on May 10, a panel of three judges convicted Efrain Rios Montt, the country’s former de facto leader, of genocide. It was the first time that a domestic court anywhere in the world convicted a former head of state for that crime, a milestone given the degree of culpability such a conviction implies for the country’s institutions.

Since then, a cabal of business, military, and government officials have pushed back hard, seeking to reestablish the status quo of impunity for the rich and powerful.

A crucial player in the campaign for truth and accountability is the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG). Founded in 1997, FAFG has exhumed some 1,650 grave sites, discovered the remains of more than 7,000 victims, helped identify missing family members, and provided crucial testimony in trials in Guatemala and Spain. In one case, addressing the Dos Erres massacre in 1982, four soldiers and officers were sentenced to 6,060 years in prison (30 years for each of the 201 murder victims identified at trial and an additional 30 years for crimes against humanity).

Fredy Peccerelli, FAFG’s award-winning director, discusses the ways in which forensic anthropology can be used to uncover the truth, summarizes some of the rule of law achievements in Guatemala, and talks about next steps.

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