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  • Kakchiquel Mayan women listen to instructions from forensic anthropology experts next to boxes containing the remains of ten wartime victims.

    Kakchiquel Mayan women listen to instructions from forensic anthropology experts next to boxes containing the remains of ten wartime victims. | Photo: James Rodriguez

Photojournalist James Rodriguez documents the ongoing struggle for peace and justice in Guatemala two decades after the peace accords.

Guatemala brought an end to a bloody 36-year civil war 20 years ago Thursday with the signing of historic peace accords between the government and armed revolutionary guerrilla groups. 

Diary of Death: Guatemala Struggles for Justice 20 Years After Peace Deal

The brutal armed conflict left at least 200,000 civilian victims. According to the United Nations Truth Commission, the Guatemalan military carried out over 600 massacres against unarmed communities — mostly rural indigenous Mayans — as part of a counterinsurgency strategy that resulted in genocide.

Photojournalist James Rodriguez compiled these photos to document the ongoing struggle for peace and justice two decades after the peace accords.

Human rights activists and family members of the wartime detained-disappeared commemorate Guatemala's National Day Against Forced Disappearance. It is estimated that 45,000 people were forcibly disappeared by State security forces during Guatemala's 36-year internal armed conflict from 1960 to 1996. Guatemala City, Guatemala. June 21, 2014.

Mass grave number 16 inside Coban's former Military Zone 21 reveals dozens of bound, tied and blindfolded human remains. The exhumation, ongoing since Feb. 27, 2012, has been requested by The Association of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Guatemala, also known as Famdegua, and carried out by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropological Foundation, also known as FAFG.

After three months of work, forensic experts have recovered the remains of nearly 100 wartime victims, many believed to originate from the Rabinal area - particularly related to the 1982 Los Encuentros Massacre. Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. May 29, 2012.

Kakchiquel Mayan women from San Juan Comalapa listen to instructions from members of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) next to boxes containing the remains of ten wartime victims. On July 18, 2014, members from the FAFG returned to family members the positively identified remains of ten Kakchiquel Mayan wartime victims exhumed from the former Military Garrison in San Juan Comalapa between 2003 and 2005. San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango, Guatemala. July 18, 2014.

Members of the March for Remembrance clash with anti-riot police along 8th street and 5th avenue in Guatemala City's Zone 1, as the Military Day festivities are being held simultaneously a block away in Guatemala City's central park.

Organized by Hijos Guatemala — the Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Forgetfulness and Silence — the March for Remembrance is a counter-march to the annual Military Day parade, seen by many as inadequate in modern Guatemala considering the atrocities carried out by the institution against the local population during the 36-year internal armed conflict. Guatemala City, Guatemala. June 30, 2007.

Mounds of arrest files and other documents in deplorable state are still found in National Police Historical Archives. On July 5, 2005, the historical archives of the now-dissolved National Police were found in an abandoned arms depot in the outskirts of Guatemala City.

The discovery of these millions of documents, which were allegedly lost after the 1996 peace accords, provide important evidence in the search for the thousands of people who were detained and subsequently disappeared by state security forces during the internal armed conflict from 1960 to 1996. Guatemala City, Guatemala. March 20, 2009.

Locals from Pinares hamlet look into a coffin containing the remains of Agustin Tec Pop, exhumed from Coban's former Military Zone 21 in August 2012. On Sept. 13, 1983, Tec Pop and three others were fleeing violence when they were taken captive by an army platoon they encountered in the mountains near Chi'is.

Tec Pop's remains were identified through DNA analysis by members of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala and returned to his family members in October 2014. Pinares, Cahabon, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Oct. 30, 2014.

Police guard a crime scene where two unidentified men in their early 20s are gunned down while waiting to get a haircut at the Barberia Shalom in Guatemala City's Colonia 4 de Febrero in Zone 7. Guatemala City, Guatemala. July 12, 2014.

Friends and relatives of Clementino Buc Sac watch as his skeletal remains are brought home in a coffin thirty-three years after he was forcibly disappeared. On Oct. 28, 2015, members from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala returned to family members the positively identified remains of three Kakchiquel Mayan wartime victims, including Buc Sac's.

All three were abducted from their homes by the Army on May 4, 1982, exhumed from a common grave in Paley, San Jose Poaquil, on Feb. 27, 2013, and positively identified through DNA technology. Parajbey, Santa Apolonia, Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Oct. 28, 2015.

Efrain Rios Montt, former de facto head of state accused of Genocide against the Ixil Mayan people, finally takes the stand. Guatemala City, Guatemala. May 9, 2013.

Blanca Rosa Quiroa de Hernandez, mother of Oscar David Hernández, fireman who was detained-disappeared on Feb. 23, 1984, is a founding member of the Mutual Support Group and the Association for Detained-Disappeared Family Members of Guatemala or Famedegua.

Here, Mrs. Quiroa de Hernandez gets ready to join the 2011 March for Remembrance, a counter-protest march to the official Armed Forces Holiday. Guatemala City, Guatemala. June 30, 2011.

Forensic anthropologists clean, assemble and record exhumed human remains at the headquarters of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala or FAFG. Formed in 1992 due to the increasing demands for forensic activities, the FAFG focuses on exhuming, identifying and properly burying the thousands of missing wartime victims from Guatemala's internal armed conflict.

FAFG’s own Forensic Genetics Laboratory in Guatemala City — the only one of it’s kind in the region — has been operating since late 2010 and has rendered positive identification of dozens of wartime victims from numerous regions. The laboratory was conceived following the models and experiences of the International Commission on Missing Persons in Bosnia, and the technology developed to identify the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Guatemala City, Guatemala. Sept. 29, 2015.

Supporters of the armed forces protest outside Matamoros Barracks where former general and ex de facto head of state Efrain Rios Montt is held imprisoned. Rios Montt was recently convicted for genocide and crimes against humanity during Guatemala's civil war. Guatemala City, Guatemala. May 12, 2013.

View inside ossuary 1 at La Verbena Cemetery during the opening ceremony for the landmark exhumations reveals primarily human remains, clothing and plastic bags.

The exhumations of the ossuaries at La Verbena Cemetery by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation comprise the most complex and ambitious project in search of the 45,000 detained-disappeared victims of Guatemala’s State-induced terrorism against its citizens primarily during the 1970s and 80s. Guatemala City, Guatemala. Feb. 26, 2010.

A man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask participates along with thousands gathered in Guatemala City's central park to demand the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina. On Aug. 21, 2015, Perez Molina was accused by the Public Prosecutor's office and the CICIG, a U.N. anti-corruption agency, as the head of a customs fraud scheeme called La Linea, or The Line, along with his former Vice President Roxana Baldetti. Baldetti was arrested earlier during the day and an impeachment process has been called for against Perez Molina. Guatemala City, Guatemala. Aug. 22, 2015.

Dozens hike up to commemorate the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Rio Negro Massacre at Pak'oxom Peak. On March 13, 1982, the Guatemalan army and civil patrolmen from neighboring Xococ rounded up residents of Rio Negro, marched them uphill to Pak’oxom, and brutally raped and massacred 177 women and children.

Nearly 400 community members of Rio Negro were killed in four separate massacres in the early 1980s due to the community’s resistance to give up their lands and make way for the Chixoy hydroelectric project. Rio Negro, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. March 13, 2009.


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