War crime file growing against Guatemalan police.

Guatemala has found millions more files documenting torture and murder committed by police during the country's long civil war, adding to a massive archive that details past government atrocities.

Truckloads of documents seized from around the country arrived in Guatemala City on Wednesday, among the 15 to 20 million files piled in plastic sacks and crumpled cardboard boxes that are being collected by national human rights officials from police precincts in 14 states.

Accompanied by human rights officials and police escorts, they will be warehoused with 120 million other documents, creating the largest police archive of its kind in Latin America.

Investigators believe that among the files, which contain all the daily dealings of Guatemala's National Police including death records and telegrams from as far back as the 1930s, may be encoded evidence of disappearances ordered by security forces during the country's armed conflict.

"These archives are of tremendous importance to the country for three reasons," said Frank LaRue, director of a presidential advisory commission on human rights.

"First, because they can be used to investigate past human rights violations; second, for potential prosecution of those responsible for disappearances since those cases are still open, in some cases, after 20 years; and third, they will expose past corruption and official violence," he said.

About 200,000 people died during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, most of them during the late 1970s and 1980s. After UN-backed peace accords ended the fighting in 1996, the nation's Truth Commission found most of the killings were carried out by government security forces.

The Truth Commission found the National Police supported the military with intelligence and logistic support.

Housed in a warehouse behind a car dump at the National Police Academy, a small staff of rights workers and police sifts through the archives' millions of mildewed and dusty pages.

Sergio Morales, the head of the human rights ombudsman's office, visited the archives to oversee the arrival of the new documents. He said international archival experts from Europe will help catalogue and decode some of the most sensitive material, a task that could take years.

[Source: By Mica Rosenberg, Guatemala City, Reuters, 14Dec05]

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