Guatemala disappeared: Reuniting families with the remains of loved ones

James Rodríguez, of MiMundo, has a photo-reportage piece on BBC World regarding the great work of Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala – FAFG). It is a very moving piece with superb photos.

Almost 25 years on from the signing of a peace agreement which put an end to Guatemala’s bloody armed conflict, thousands of families have yet to find the remains of their missing relatives.

More than 200,000 people were killed during the 36-year civil war between the military and left-wing rebels which ended in 1996. Of these, an estimated 45,000 people were forcibly disappeared, their bodies buried in unmarked pits or dumped in mass graves.

Over the years, the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) has tried to locate and identify the remains of the victims of forced disappearances.

They collect DNA samples from family members, carry out exhumations and return the identified remains of victims to their relatives for a dignified burial.

But as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the FAFG was forced to suspend its field visits for almost a year.

In February, the FAFG resumed its work in the Ixil Mayan communities of Nebaj, Cotzal and Chajul. In 1982, some of the most brutal massacres of the armed conflict were carried out in this area under the orders of then-military ruler General Efraín Ríos Montt.

Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013 but his conviction was later overturned. He died in 2018 while a retrial was under way.

Even though Guatemala’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that acts of genocide were carried out against the Ixil people, only a small number of low-ranking soldiers have been convicted of war crimes and Ríos Montt has not been convicted of genocide posthumously.

Meanwhile, for many in the communities ravaged by the conflict, the search for those forcibly disappeared decades ago continues.

You can read the full piece, with photos, here, Guatemala disappeared: Reuniting families with the remains of loved ones.

For more on FAFG, you can visit their website here, FAFG – Home, and, if so moved, you can make donations to FAFG through here, Friends of FAFG.

Categories: Culture, Femicide, Gender, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Military, Poverty, Rios Montt, Solidarity in Action, Violence

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