Fredy Armando Peccerelli Monterroso is an internationally renowned forensic anthropologist, human rights activist, and founding member of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG). After returning to Guatemala in 1995, he dedicated his life to upholding human rights and dignity through the use of forensic sciences. He led the development and implementation of a Multidisciplinary Human Identification System that applies victim investigation, forensic-archaeology, forensic-anthropology, and forensic-genetics to uncover the identity of victims the Guatemalan civil conflict, and the truth behind their disappearance. FAFG is now sought to aid in international work in other post-conflict countries as well. Peccerelli has also received the Special Honours Medal from Governor General David Johnston, the Award for Human Rights Activist presented by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and the Puffin Foundation, the 2008 Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Science award, and he was the first recipient of the Washington Office on Latin America Human Rights Award. He was also recognized by Time Magazine and CNN’s 50 Latin American Leaders for the New Millennium.

Peccerelli’s lecture discussed the state of Guatemala at the end of the 36-year armed civil conflict, with 1.5 million people internally displaced, 200 000 killed or disappeared, and 626 massacres committed at the hands of state security forces. Indigenous people were disproportionately targeted, comprising 83% of the victims, while state forces committed 93% of the crimes. He then discussed the process by which FAFG, a forensic anthropology project, was attempting to identify the bodies of those killed during the conflict. A unit of investigators gained community trust and conducted testimonial interviews in which families of the disappeared provided information about their clothes, childhood injuries, and teeth – anything that could help to identify the body. They also used collected DNA and specialized software to identify bodies. Peccerelli then discussed the careful documentation practices the team used in order to make sure that everything they uncovered could be used by families, prosecutors, and judges. He concluded by explaining the process of trying to find the graves of the disappeared, and discussed how once found, such graves provided evidence of the actions of state forces during the conflict, including that they moved prisoners around.

As a part of the Dunning Trust’s funding for this lecture, a $10 000 donation was made to Friends of FAFG to support their work.