(Flash video embedded above, MP4 Link here.)
Today is the final installment of Boing Boing tv‘s three-day special series in partnership with the video network WITNESS commemorating the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
In this episode: the story of Jesus Tecu Osorio, a Maya AchÃ man who witnessed one of the most horrific massacres of Guatemala’s 36-year internal conflict, when he was a child — and what he is doing to preserve the memory of victims, and the rights of survivors.
Here is a snip from the Wikipedia article about that massacre:
In 1978, in the face of civil war, the Guatemalan government proceeded with its economic development program, including the construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam. Financed in large part by the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, the Chixoy Dam was built in Rabinal, a region of the department of Baja Verapaz historically populated by the Maya Achi. To complete construction, the government completed voluntary and forcible relocations of dam-affected communities from the fertile agricultural valleys to the much harsher surrounding highlands. When hundreds of residents refused to relocate, or returned after finding the conditions of resettlement villages were not what the government had promised, these men, women, and children were kidnapped, raped, and massacred by military officials. More than 440 Maya Achi were killed in the village of RÃo Negro alone, and the string of extra-judicial killings that claimed up to 5,000 lives between 1980 and 1982 became known as the RÃo Negro Massacres. The government officially declared the acts to be counterinsurgency activities.
This video is narrated by REM frontman Michael Stipe, and is presented with the music of composer Philip Glass. For more on WITNESS, and how they are using video to draw world attention to human rights abuses throughout the globe, visit the recently launched Witness HUB website.
Related: earlier here on Boing Boing, I shared a report I filed for National Public Radio about the group that conducted the exhumations mentioned in this WITNESS video. The Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) are technologists, anthropologists, and archaeologists who unearth these mass graves. They work to identify the dead and return the remains to their families for dignified reburial. The process begins with the hard work of the exhumation itself, but they also use DNA forensics and software they develop themselves, so they can identify a greater portion of the remains, and preserve evidence that could be used in criminal trials. FAFG staff routinely deal with death threats from those who do not support their work. Listen to “Group Works to Identify Remains in Guatemala ,” and here is the entire NPR special series, “Guatemala: Unearthing the Future.” (Image below: Xeni Jardin)