Historical Clarification Commission

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The Historical Clarification Commission (Spanish: Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico, or CEH) was Guatemala's truth and reconciliation commission established in 1994 to help reconcile the country and achieve peace after its long civil war.


The Historical Clarification Commission was created in 1994 with the signing of the Oslo Accord, as a part of the ongoing peace negotiation during the civil war. The Commission's mandate was to investigate the numerous human rights violations perpetrated by both sides in the armed conflict. Its purposes were:

  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.[1]
  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.[1]
  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.[1]

The Oslo Accord stipulates that “The Commission shall not attribute responsibility to any individual in its work, recommendations and report nor shall these have any judicial aim or effect.”[1]

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. For a period of six months, they were to examine the human rights violations that occurred from the beginning of the armed conflict to the signing of the Agreement on a Firm and Lasting Peace of 1996. The Commission would be allowed to extend the time of its investigation another six months if it was decided to be necessary.[1]

The Historical Clarification Commission's report, titled “Memory of Silence”, was formally presented on February 25, 1999. It estimates that over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared as a result of the conflict. According to its findings, 93 percent of the human rights violations and acts of violence are attributable to actions by the state, while 3 percent can be attributed to the guerillas. 85 percent of all registered violations are attributable to the army, with 18 percent to the civil patrols. It also concludes that acts of genocide were committed against Mayan groups by agents of the State of Guatemala between 1981 and 1983. “Memory of Silence” further details cases of extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances, torture, forced displacement, massacres, and rape and sexual violence through the use of witness testimonies, documents, and forensic evidence.[1]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f Rothenberg, Daniel. Memory of Silence: The Guatemalan Truth Commission Report/Edited By Daniel Rothenberg. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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