10MM images from Guatemala's National Police go online: disappearances, STD experiments, more

Forensic human rights statistician Patrick Ball sez, "More than 10 million images from the Historical Archive of the Guatemalan National Police (AHPN in the Spanish acronym) are now online at the University of Texas. Documents from the Archive start in the late nineteenth century and continue until the Police were disbanded in 1996. Scholars using the documents have detailed the role of the National Police in illegal surveillance and attacks on dissidents during Guatemala's armed internal conflict, scientists have used sampling and statistics to find patterns in the Archive that illuminate how command works, and prosecutors have won convictions of former police officers for disappearances that were unsolved for decades. Several retired officers from the senior leadership of the Police, including the former Director, Col. Héctor Bol de la Cruz, have been charged with overseeing disappearances in the 1980s, and are likely to stand trial. Now the AHPN is putting the entire archive online, unredacted, so that the world can learn from Guatemala's example."

A product of broad international collaboration, these digitized documents from the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN) aim to facilitate scholarly and legal research into a vast cache of historical documentation. The discovery of the National Police Historical Archive in 2005 opened an extensive and timely resource for the study of Guatemalan history and human rights in the region, spanning a broad array of topics from Guatemala's armed conflict between 1960 and 1996 to the sexually transmitted disease experiments performed at the behest of the United States government in the 1940s. The Archive is presented online here for the first time.

This site currently includes over 10 million scanned images of documents from the National Police Historical Archive. This digital archive mirrors and extends the physical archive that remains preserved in Guatemala as an important historical patrimony of the Guatemalan people.

Digital Archive of the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN) (Thanks, Patrick!)


  1. I’d say this was good news, if I was already aware of the extent of human rights abuse in Guatemala…

    Not sure what to call something that simultaneously bums me out and offers a bit of hope, though.

    Also, typo in title – ’10MM’

    1. I had an economics prof who confused the shit out of me when he wrote “10M” and said “ten thousand”. He explained to me that M in economics meant thousand (M = mille) while in engineering M meant million (M = mega). So yeah, MM means million (thousand thousands) in any profession that is not a hard science.

      It seriously annoys me.

      1. O_o

        Huh. I’m 37 and I don’t ever recall coming across that convention.

        Not that I ever studied economics… but what the hell’s wrong with SI prefixes, I wonder.

        Tends to confirm my low opinion of economists; I gather more interfacing with reality outside their ivory simulations would do them good.

    2. Not sure what to call something that simultaneously bums me out and offers a bit of hope, though.

      An Opportunity

  2. Thanks to Cory for picking up on the Guatemalan archive news. The University of Texas Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative http://www.lib.utexas.edu/hrdi/ has also partnered with the Kigali Genocide Memorial to build and host documentation from the Rwandan Genocide, including audio/video survivor testimonies, all available for the world to see. http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw/

  3. This isn’t journalism. If individuals do not review each item *before* info is released, it’s just an indiscriminate opening of unknown floodgates. Clearly this has been precipitated by anarchists, and they will be dealt with.

  4.  The major lesson to be learned from Guatemala’s example is that there’s virtually no limit to the severity and scale of the crimes you can commit with impunity as long as you have the patronage of a superpower.

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