Last updated: 2 april, 2009 - 10:47 GMT

The Americas

The Atrocity Archives

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The wife of Guatemala's human rights ombudsman was kidnapped, held for 14 hours, and beaten. Just a day after the release of a report into police atrocities during the country's 36 year long civil war.

It is being viewed as a warning to those behind the release of the first batch of the 80 million documents discovered four years ago in an abandoned warehouse.

The documents contain evidence of police involvement in tens of thousands of kidnappings, forced disappearances, and extra-judicial killings.

There were few prosecutions for human rights violations carried out during the war waged between successive right-wing dictatorships and a left-wing insurgency.

However, two former policemen have been charged with the forced disappearance of union leader Fernando Garcia in 1984.

Prosecutors for the first time used information found in the archives to make a case.

Gerry Northam hears the story of the archive's chance discovery and what it contains.

Programme One begins with the launch of the report in Guatemala City, attended by 1000 guests and journalists.

Gerry meets those at work restoring it - who lost loved ones during the civil war, killed or disappeared.

He speaks to Mayan people who suffered massacres, torture and the rape of their women, and looks at the risks posed by those who would rather names and evidence stayed secret.

Gerry also hears the story of a former general who expresses pride in what he did to ‘preserve the dignity of Guatemala.' And the story of a Catholic bishop who - during the war - denounced the state, only to be murdered days later.

Due to evidence revealed in the archives - the bishop's killers are now being prosecuted.

First broadcast Monday 6 April 2009

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