Guatemala team to release war-era military files

By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA, The Associated Press 8:30 p.m. March 3, 2009

GUATEMALA CITY — A new government commission will organize and declassify military documents that could shed light on torture, disappearances and other atrocities during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, President Alvaro Colom announced Tuesday.

Starting next week, the five-member panel will spend 10 months gathering files from military bases and other institutions, Colom said. Once organized, the documents will be released to the public.

"We are no longer at war. We have no reason to hide anything," Colom told reporters.

However, the team of four civilian government workers and one Defense Ministry official will determine whether any of the documents contain secrets that could jeopardize national security, said presidential spokesman Ronaldo Robles.

A U.N. truth commission in 1999 found that 90 percent of the atrocities committed in the war were carried out by former soldiers and paramilitaries. More than 200,000 people were killed, mostly Mayan Indians.

The military has historically kept its documents under lock and key and fought almost all public requests to see them. But army spokesman Juan Francisco Loranca said the army was "completely ready to obey the orders of our commander in chief, the president."

However, Carmen Aida Ibarra, of the human rights group Myrna Mack Foundation, noted that Colom announced the creation of a similar commission last year that has produced no results.

"It's not a matter of commissions. The president announced that the files would be handed over in 2008 and the military always spins its wheels," she said.

In January, the government filed 3,350 criminal complaints accusing former soldiers, paramilitaries and others ... ndex=61543