2012 ALBA Puffin Human Rights Award honors struggle for accountability in Latin America
Two winners share the honors of this year’s ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism, splitting $100,000 to continue their fight for justice in Latin America. (Read the full press release here. En castellano; order tickets here)
Both Fredy Peccerelli, Executive Director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, and Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive, have shown tenacity, courage, care, and acuity in vindicating victims of government violence and pursuing the perpetrators of criminal activity.
The awards will be presented at ALBA’s annual event on May 13, at Museum of the City of New York, starting at 4:30 p.m. (Tickets.)
The three-person award committee selected the two awardees from among more than forty nominations. The ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism, one of the largest human rights awards in the world, is given jointly by ALBA and the Puffin Foundation, which provides an endowed fund exclusively for this annual honor.
Kate Doyle, a dogged and creative researcher-activist, has spent twenty years working tirelessly with Latin American human rights organizations and truth commissions—in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras—advocating for the declassification of U.S. government archives in support of their criminal investigations.
Fredy Peccerelli, a brave and innovative forensic anthropologist, has made crucial contributions to the first-ever conviction of Guatemalan military forces for crimes against humanity. As founding director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG), Peccerelli leads a team that, over the past fifteen years, has exhumed hundreds of mass graves of victims of Guatemala’s civil war.
Doyle and Peccerelli were both recently featured in the award-winning documentary Granito, produced and directed by Pam Yates and Paco de Onís, which narrates their involvement in the effort to indict former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes against humanity. “During their extensive careers, both have amassed impressive records of human rights advocacy,” said Marina Garde, ALBA’s executive director, who administered the nomination process.
In 1994, Doyle co-authored the report of the Washington Task Force on Salvadoran Death Squads, produced for the United Nations-appointed Grupo Conjunto, which examined the resurgence of death squads in El Salvador after the signing of the peace accords. She published the Guatemalan death squad dossier inHarper’s Magazine. She also edited two collections of National Security Archive’s declassified record—Death Squads, Guerrilla War, Covert Operations, and Genocide: Guatemala and the United States, 1954-1999 and El Salvador: War, Peace and Human Rights, 1980-1994. In 2002, Doyle appeared as an expert witness in the trial of senior military officers in Guatemala for the assassination of Myrna Mack. Doyle also works with citizens’ groups throughout the region on their campaigns for government transparency, accountability, and freedom of information, and she has written about the right to information in Latin America and the United States.
Peccerelli brings the scientific tools of forensic medicine to the task of human rights. Among his achievements has been the identification of specific victims of Guatemalan genocide, gathering evidence for use in court and providing closure to family members. He also created a national DNA database of those who lost loved ones. His own family was forced to flee Guatemala for the Bronx after his father received death threats when Fredy was twelve. Internationally renowned, Peccerelli has also led investigations of mass graves in the former Yugoslavia. Peccerelli was named by Time Magazine and CNN as one of the fifty Latin American Leaders for the New Millennium.
“These awards are designed to give public recognition, support, and encouragement to individuals or groups whose work has an exceptionally positive impact on the advancement and/or defense of human rights,” said Puffin Foundation President Perry Rosenstein. “They are intended to help educate students and the general public about the importance of defending human rights against arbitrary powers that violate democratic principles.”
The ALBA/Puffin Award is part of a program connecting the inspiring legacy of the International Brigades to international activist causes today. The first annual award was granted to the Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón in May 2011.
The National Security Archive was founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy. It combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents, leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets. The NSA is housed at George Washington University.
The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation is an autonomous, non-profit, technical and scientific NGO. Its aim is to strengthen the administration of justice and respect for human rights by investigating, documenting, and raising awareness about past instances of human rights violations, particularly unresolved murders, that occurred during Guatemala’s 30-year-long civil war. Its main tool in pursuing this goal is the application of forensic anthropology techniques in exhumations of clandestine mass graves. Its endeavors in this regard allow the relatives of the disappeared to recuperate the remains of their missing family members and to proceed with burials in accordance with their beliefs and enable criminal prosecutions to be brought against the perpetrators.