Getting Away with Murder: The Medicolegal System and Human Rights in Guatemala

Since the overthrow of a reformist democratic government in 1954, Guatemala has been known for astounding military violence inflicted on a defenseless civilian population. A new civilian government elected in 1986 first raised and then dashed hopes for an end to the torture, murder and disappearances carried out with impunity by the security forces. This report analyzes the medicolegal system and its handling of several recent political killings, including the December 1990 army massacre of villagers in Santiago Atitl n, to show why the perpetrators of political murders are rarely punished in Guatemala. In addition, the report chronicles a series of exhumations of clandestine graves conducted by the forensic team assembled by Americas Watch and Physicians for Human Rights at the start of 1991 in a remote mountain village in the embattled Quiché province. (With photographs.)

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