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REMHI undertook its work in four phases: publicising its upcoming investigations and sensitising the public; gathering testimonies from witnesses, mostly victims but also some perpetrators; analysing the gathered information and producing a report; and, finally, disseminating the report and following up with victims, including by undertaking activities that victims noted would help in their healing processes. The final stage included exhumations and reburials.

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TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE PROCESSES

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Guatemala:

Recovery of Historical Memory Project

NAME OF MECHANISMnorth guatemala

Recovery of Historical Memory (Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica) Project

PERIOD OF OPERATION

1995 – 1999

MANDATE AND OPERATIONS

Mandate: The Recovery of Historical Memory (REMHI) project was established by the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala with the aim of promoting reconciliation and healing for victims of the war. REMHI’s mandate was to reveal the history of the conflict through victims’ testimonies. It systematically collected these stories through interviews, case studies, historical documents and the print media’s outputs [Mazariegos | 2000].

Staff: Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera and 800 volunteers [Cabrera | 1998].

RESOURCES

Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala official website (in Spanish)

RESULTS

REMHI undertook its work in four phases: publicising its upcoming investigations and sensitising the public; gathering testimonies from witnesses, mostly victims but also some perpetrators; analysing the gathered information and producing a report; and, finally, disseminating the report and following up with victims, including by undertaking activities that victims noted would help in their healing processes. The final stage included exhumations and reburials [People Building Peace | 1999].

REMHI conducted 6,500 individual and collective interviews, and more than half of its collected material is in one of the Mayan languages. It released its report, Guatemala: Never Again, in 1998. The project found that approximately 150,000 people had been killed and 50,000 had gone missing, and that the war resulted in 1 million refugees [Martín Beristain | Dec 1998]. Like the Commission for Historical Clarification, REMHI found that government forces were responsible for the majority of the human rights violations in the conflict.

BACKGROUND

Bishop Gerardi suggested the project as early as 1984. Concerned that the six months to a year initially allotted to the Commission for Historical Clarification for its work was too short, the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala launched REMHI in 1995 in order to gain a full picture of the conflict through victims’ stories and, through truth, to promote the healing of Guatemalan society [Cabrera | 1998]. REMHI was an interdiocesian effort undertaken by 10 of the 11 diocese in Guatemala.

Two days after the REMHI report was released to the public, Bishop Gerardi was murdered [Cabrera | 1998]. Three army officials and a priest were convicted of his murder in 2001, and a former president was suspected of being involved [BBC | 8 June 2001]. The trial was viewed as a test of the criminal justice system’s ability to be fair and transparent.

SOURCES

[BBC | 8 Jun 2001]
[Oliver Mazariegos, “The Recovery of Historical Memory Project of the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala: Data Processing, Database Representation,” in Making the Case (AAAS) | 2000]
[People Building Peace | 1999]
[Roberto Cabrera, “Should We Remember? Recovering Historical Memory in Guatemala,” in Past Imperfect: Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland and Societies in Transition (INCORE) | 1998]