ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

'From the Horse’s Mouth: The Research on Perpetrators in Guatemala (Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 2012, pp. 27-44)'

  • From the Horse's Mouth: The Research on Perpetrators in Guatemala, Jennifer Schirmer, State Crime Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 27-44


In our research on perpetrators, is it sufficient to know what people do, or is it equally critical to know what reasons and justifications they provide in their own words for their actions, in order to try to prevent it happening again? And if it is important to know what people understand about their actions in their own words, how do we go about getting perpetrators to speak candidly about this? Interestingly, when I began my research, a number of non-Guatemalan analysts told me not to “waste my time”, that the officers would feed me “a lie to cover up their pathological actions”. If we consider the logic behind such advice, it assumes that we already know who these officers are by what they do; that they are evil incarnate. But is it sufficient to look upon these officers as essentially evil? Does the epithet describe what happened? Does it explain the “why”?

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