HRWG Newsletter, March 2017


Trudy Huskamp Peterson

Date Added:

5 April 2017

Body parts are part of archives. A court case may include a mummified finger that was part of a damage claim. Strange circumstances can lead to an archives holding cremated remains until a suitable, dignified solution can be found. To be sure, these are unusual archival situations, but not unknown.

Now, however, as DNA testing has become routine in many parts of the world, archives are starting to hold both test results and samples—the part that comes from the body. The archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross holds DNA samples from Chile and is starting to take more from Lebanon.  Major forensic anthropology organizations, such as the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, have large archival holdings of DNA samples and test records. For forensic purposes DNA is taken both from discovered remains and from family members of persons who have disappeared in the hope that someday remains will yield a match. For example, an area outside the city of Veracruz, Mexico, the remains of more than 250 people in 125 separate graves were discovered since excavations at the site began in the summer of 2016. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the killers had “routinely” removed “all traces of ID on their victims” so DNA is the best clue to their identities.  Officials are collecting DNA from relatives of the missing, and the first two sets of remains have been identified.

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