The Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF) is a non-profit organization that works to locate and identify the remains of individuals that were disappeared during Peru’s internal conflict. EPAF consists of a team of forensic scientists that use modern forensic techniques when exhuming the remains of those disappeared and killed during the conflict. EPAF strives to achieve its goals by working alongside the families of the disappeared to find their relatives, gain access to justice, and improve the conditions affecting their political and economic development.
Their work has not been solely limited to Peru and in recent years EPAF has conducted trainings around the world on forensics in response to the need for prosecutors, human rights investigators and civil society actors to fight against systematic violations of human rights, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. EPAF’s work has been conducted in numerous countries across the globe including Somalia, Nepal and the Congo. The key to these efforts is the ability of EPAF, through capacity building, to create sustainable and effective forensic practices with these organizations that can be continued after they leave.
Peru conducted a post-conflict truth process in the years immediately following the end of the conflict that was largely seen as successful, yet there are lingering legacy issues that remain unresolved. A large number of people were disappeared during the course of the conflict in Peru and many of the remains of those people still lie in unknown graves around the country. In recent years, EPAF has not conducted any exhumations in Peru due to resistance to continuing exhumations within the country. The need remains however to continue addressing this problem with an estimated 15,000 people having been disappeared during the course of the conflict. The surviving family members of those that were disappeared remain unable to bury their family members or find a sense of closure or justice for the deaths of their loved ones. Importantly, EPAF advocates for equal treatment when pursuing their work regardless of who perpetrated the disappearances. This type of policy is critical to reconciliation and transparency in any post-conflict country that has experienced the level of political violence experienced by Peru.
As the Peace Fellow for EPAF this summer, I will be assisting their work and helping to provide support and advocacy on their behalf. Through a series of blog posts, photos and videos, I will document my time with EPAF and the important episodes of my months in Peru. I hope that I can assist the work of EPAF and more importantly help tell the stories of the families that continue to be affected. Many of these communities have been historically marginalized and the loss of their family members has compounded this fact. The Advocacy Project and EPAF strive to give a voice to the voiceless and the work we will be engaging in through the coming months will endeavor to do just that. Through this I hope all sections of Peruvian society can be heard and have their stories told in order to reconcile with the past and move into a more just future.
Posted By Thomas Bradley (Peru)
Posted May 29th, 2014