Digging for truth in Guatemala

SEATTLE, WA-- Unmarked graves in the Guatemalan highlands offer mute testimony to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people--many of them Mayans--who were killed by military and paramilitary during the country's bloody civil war.

AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, helped train the first forensic anthropology team to exhume and examine thousands of Guatemala's dead, beginning in 1992. Since then, scientists like Fredy Peccerelli have braved death threats and other perils to piece together the stories of victims' lives.

Peccerelli, executive director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, will be among those honored Saturday night at the AAAS Science and Human Rights reception during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle.

Each year, the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program honors one or more scientists who, through action and example, have promoted human rights, usually at great personal cost. In 2004, the Program honors the members of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (Fundacin de Antropologa Forense de Guatemala, FAFG).

The FAFG investigates mass human rights abuses, focusing on the recovery and identification of victims killed and buried in clandestine gravesites during Guatemala's 36-year internal armed conflict. The Foundation uses forensic anthropology and archeology to search for the estimated 200,000 lives that were lost.

Since 1992, the group has carried out 191 exhumations of mass grave sites. FAFG is a non-governmental organization that functions in the absence of an official government exhumation program. Exhumations have played a critical role in providing forensic investigation teams with evidence to scientifically document massacres perpetrated by the Guatemalan military.

In the past three years, the FAFG has faced increased repression: Members of the Foundation were the subject of numerous attacks and death threats. The individuals behind the th

Contact: Monica Amarelo
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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