By Ovidio Castro Medina |
Bogotá, (EFE).- In Colombia there are more than 100,000 families in a long and exhausting search for a loved one, a task in which time takes its toll, while parts of bodies that are not they are always easy to identify.
“Both violence and the passage of time erase the identity of people and that makes studies complex,” laments the deputy director of the Forensic Legal Medicine Service, Carlos Antonio Murillo.
Added to the obstacle posed by the passing of the years is one of the peculiarities of the Colombian conflict: the mutilation of the victims by the perpetrators to erase the traces of their crimes.
Shredded ribs, femurs, skulls and other body parts arrive at the Legal Medicine building in Bogotá where they undergo a cleaning process following strict international protocols.
An adult skeleton is made up of 206 bones, 22 of which make up the skull. Parts of that structure are those that reach the laboratories where forensics begin the task of assembling the puzzles.
The identification includes anthropological and dental studies, among other analyzes that seek to determine the sex, age, height and whether the victim died from a blow or a shot, for example.
Later, with the taking of DNA samples, the genetic profile is configured, which is compared with the more than 60,000 records of people looking for their relatives, housed in the Bank of Genetic Profiles of the Disappeared.
In that same bank there are another 8,000 “unidentified” bodies that cannot be delivered due to lack of information and are still in deposits.
“The Bank is a computer tool that allows us to administer, organize and manage all the genetic information of people who are looking for missing relatives,” explains the Bank’s administrator, Carolina Giraldo, to EFE.
“The identification is made from comparisons. It is not true, as seen on television, that a sample is taken and it is put in a device and it tells me the name, the telephone number, ”adds Giraldo.
In this sense, the administrator explains that one of the main problems they have is that the Bank lacks sufficient data to compare and identify a person reported as missing, mostly victims of the conflict.
This is because there are people who do not allow a sample to be taken to build a genetic profile, either because they do not trust the State or because they are not interested in being associated with someone who belonged to an armed group so as not to risk reprisals because they still live in conflict zones.
The ideal would be to ensure that all people who have a missing relative agree to give genetic samples, but for now “that is not the case,” says Murillo, who explains that to increase the number of samples, collection days are being carried out in the country.
“It is not due to a lack of forensic expertise, it is not due to a lack of institutional diligence, but because we do not have anything to compare with and the genetic profile bank plays a very important role there,” he affirms.
Way to go
According to the Unit for the Search for Missing Persons (UBPD), in Colombia there are 104,606 people registered in that condition, a figure that may vary because that “universe is still under construction.”
Of this total, 89,782 are still missing, which means that 14,824 have been found and identified.
The UBPD, which is an official entity of a humanitarian and extrajudicial nature, has handed over 746 bodies to Forensic Medicine for identification and subsequent delivery to relatives.
Due to a host of situations, Legal Medicine has not been able to advance at the speed that they themselves wanted and they have only been able to identify a dozen bodies.
This forensic institute is responsible for identifying the victims of all types of violence, for which reason it performs around 30,000 necropsies a year and another 300,000 assessments of non-fatal victims. Unfortunately, many times the bodies of people who have died more than 20 years ago are the last of a long list of tasks.
“Sometimes we no longer have (fingerprints) to make the comparison, the teeth often deteriorate and the profile of the structures degrades,” says Murillo about the identification of victims.
In the same way, the soft tissues are damaged and “only the bone tissues remain and these, with the passage of time, also degrade and lose that genetic information,” he says.
The process ends with the issuance of a Legal Medicine certificate in which the victim is identified and the remains are delivered to the family with answers to questions about how their loved one died, which allows closing the cycle of uncertainty that causes a disappearance.