Real Life CSI: Wasserman Schultz Chairs Congressional Briefing:
Searching for Truth and Justice, Forensic Science in Latin America
Forensic scientists testify about ongoing investigations in Latin America to identify victims
and a proposal to expand these investigations
September 29, 2005
(Washington, DC) -- Rep. Wasserman Schultz today chaired a Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing about the ongoing forensic investigations in Latin America attempting to recover, identify, and return the remains of thousands of victims of mass killings, and violent civil conflicts. The scientists and representatives from non-governmental organizations also discussed the need for the Latin American Initiative for the Identification of the Disappeared to expand this ongoing work.
"As we are all aware, the countries of Latin America suffered a series of civil wars and violent conflicts in the 70s and early 80s," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "Brutal military dictatorships gave cover to mass graves and the most extreme abuses of human rights. Tens of thousands of people were murdered or disappeared.' "
The bloody rule of military dictatorships and violent civil conflicts of past years in Latin America have left behind a legacy of mass graves, disappeared bodies, and evidence of horrific human rights violations. Since the early 1980s, non-governmental teams of forensic anthropologists have accomplished enormous advances in the recovery, identification, and return of the remains of these victims to their families, providing answers and comfort. Although tens of thousands of people continue to wonder what happened to their children, siblings, and spouses, recent advances in DNA technology have brought them new hope that their family members will be identified and the perpetrators of the crimes will be brought to justice.
"Each murder must be investigated, and those responsible must be brought to justice," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz.
Scientists and representatives from non-governmental organizations from Argentina and the United States testified about their ongoing work and a proposal to bring advances in DNA technology to the efforts to identify thousands of individuals who died as a result of human rights violations or civil wars in Argentina, Guatemala, and Peru. The proposal also includes equipping and training an Argentine DNA laboratory, so that it can process thousands of past cases as well as serve as an independent, state-of-the-art genetic laboratory for the region. The witnesses also discussed their efforts to identify dozens of unidentified women who have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, Mexico, since 1993.
"I wish to thank the forensic scientists and non-governmental organizations working with the Latin American Initiative for the Identification of the Disappeared for their compassion and dedication to memorializing the victims and bringing comfort to their families," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "I whole heartedly support their investigations and strongly support their proposal to expand this important research."