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Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador

UN Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, From Madness to Hope: The 12-Year War in El Salvador, Report, 15 March 1993, in UN Secretary General, Letter to the President of the Security Council (S/25500), Annex. (PDF link)


H. The Risk of Delays

J. Expressions of Gratitude


The mass of reports, testimony, newspaper and magazine articles and books published in Spanish and other languages that was accumulated prompted the establishment within the Commission on the Truth itself of a centre for documentation on the different forms of violence in El Salvador. The public information relating to the war (books, pamphlets, research carried out by Salvadorian and international bodies); testimony from 2,000 primary sources referring to more than 7,000 victims; information from secondary sources relating to more than 20,000 victims; information from official bodies in the United States and other countries; information provided by government bodies and FMLN; an abundant photographic and videotape record of the conflict and even of the Commission’s own activities; all of this material constitutes an invaluable resource - a part of El Salvador’s heritage because (despite the painful reality it records) a part of the country’s contemporary history - for historians and analysts of this most distressing period and for those who wish to study this painful reality in order to reinforce the effort to spread the message "never again".

What is to be done with this wealth of material in order to make it available to those around the world who are seeking peace, to bring these personal experiences to the attention of those who defend human rights? What is to be done when one is bound by the requirement of confidentiality for documents and testimony? What use is to be made of this example of the creativity of the United Nations at a time in contemporary history which is fraught with conflict and turmoil and for which the parallels and the answers found in the Salvadorian conflict may be of some relevance?

To guarantee the confidentiality of testimony and of the many documents supplied by institutions and even by Governments and, at the same time, to provide for the possibility of consultation by academic researchers while preserving such confidentiality, the Commission obtained the agreement of the Parties and the consent and support of the International Rule of Law Center of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., which, since 1992, has been administering and maintaining the collection of documents relating to the transition to peace in countries under the rule of oppression and countries emerging from armed conflicts. In addition, the Commission has already sought the cooperation of Governments, academic institutions and international foundations, always on the clear understanding that it holds itself personally responsible for guaranteeing confidentiality before finally handing the archives over to their lawful owners.

The Foundation for the Truth would be a not-for-profit academic body governed by statutes conforming to United States law. It would be managed by an international Board of Directors, with Salvadorian participation; a representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the members of the Commission would also be members of the Board. The Foundation would be operated under the direction of Professor Thomas Buergenthal and would maintain close contacts with leaders and researchers in El Salvador, with the group of European, United States and Latin American professionals who worked with the Commission, and with scientists from around the world. For those documents which were not subject to secrecy, duplicate copies and computer terminals for accessing the collection would be available in Salvadorian institutions requesting them.

The Foundation would be inaugurated in June 1993, in Washington, with a multidisciplinary encounter to discuss the report of the Commission on the Truth.