Whenever people start moving tables around the office, I know something interesting is about to happen. Today ADIVIMA´s Department of Exhumations hosted a workshop on DNA testing with a group of seventeen Río Negro survivors who now live scattered throughout the rural villages surrounding Rabinal.
A team from the Missing Persons Investigation Office of FAFG is here for two days to request DNA samples from the relatives of a group of 74 murder victims exhumed from a well at the former military outpost outside of Pacux. I discussed this briefly in a previous blog, The Road to Pacux. None of the victims have been identified yet, and this is the sixth round of testing this team has done in Rabinal since 2004, when FAFG exhumed the bodies.
When the exhumations took place, families were invited to the site in an attempt to identify missing relatives and give their testimonies regarding what they knew of each individual disappearance, as well as the clothing, facial features, or anything unusual that might help the FAFG team in their investigation. ADIVIMA has helped FAFG stay in touch with these relatives over the years for DNA testing workshops like this one.
Since 2004, new relatives have come forward to testify and request to be included in the process, so periodically, more workshops take place. One cannot forget the level of psychological strain and real and present fear that has affected this community. No matter how much time has passed or how routine a day one may have as a survivor of violence, there exists an inquietude that permeates that life. That unconscious sense of “What if” that makes a person hold back, stay silent, or simply close their door.
Sixteen women and one man attended the morning session. Amílcar, from the FAFG team, explained some basic kinship terminology with a color-coded wall chart and the importance of getting DNA samples from as wide a sample of relatives as possible.
Amílcar and Ofélia travel throughout rural regions of Guatemala and have seen first hand how many generations were lost during the internal conflict. Often there is only an older female relative still living, or sometimes a single adult who was the child of a victim.
Once the relatives understand the process and are comfortable, they work with other team members who take the samples.
Four separate mouth swabs are needed to get a good sample from each person. From there, the samples go to the FAFG DNA lab for analysis.
ADIVIMA´s Department of Legal Cases has an open investigation on the Rabinal Military Outpost near Pacux which I will review in a future blog. Once the FAFG reports are finished, years from now, ADIVIMA will hopefully be able to take those findings and proceed even further with the case.
Posted By Heidi McKinnon
Posted Jun 19th, 2008