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The Body as Witness: Forensic Science and Human Rights
Start Date: 5/6/2015Start Time: 3:00 PM
End Date: 5/6/2015End Time: 5:00 PM

Los desaparecidos. Nestale osobe. The missing. Since the late 1980s, forensic science has played an increasingly important role in how societies and states address human rights violations. From the pioneering work of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense), established to investigate the cases of disappeared people under the military government in power from 1976 to 1983, to the efforts to identify the missing from the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and in countries such as Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Cyprus, and Iraq, forensic science has become a means of intervening into post-conflict societies. Its expertise is now routinely sought to help compile medico-legal facts, evidence for use in judicial proceedings, as well as to recover and identify the remains of persons missing as a result of armed conflict and, in many cases, state-sponsored violence.

Recovering and identifying missing persons, however, is more than scientific intervention. It is a profoundly social process, often driven by those most intimately connected to the violence and its victims--that is, the families of the missing themselves. Exhuming bodies and returning them to grieving families and communities are also inherently political acts. Drawing on a range of both practical and theoretical expertise, this panel examines the work of forensic science in post-conflict societies, focusing on examples in Latin America and the former Yugoslavia, as well as a new initiative within the American Academy of Forensic Science.

Opening remarks will be delivered by Victor Weedn, Chair of the Forensic Sciences Department at George Washington University and current President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Panelists include:

-Luis Fondebrider: Dr. Fondebrider is co-founder and current president of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), a non-governmental scientific organization established in 1984 in Argentina to investigate the whereabouts of the disappeared during the dictatorship there. Since then, EAAF has worked in 50 countries around the world, investigating cases of political, religious, and ethnic violence and training local organizations.

-Adam Rosenblatt: A human rights scholar and former research assistant in the Forensic Program at Physicians for Human Rights, Dr. Rosenblatt is the Assistant Dean for Global Engagement and an Assistant Professor of Global Studies at Champlain College. His forthcoming book, Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science after Atrocity (2015), examines the ethical, political, and historical foundations of the rapidly growing field of forensic investigation.

-Doug Ubelaker: Professorial Lecturer in Anthropology and Anatomy, Dr. Ubelaker is a physical and forensic anthropologist with extensive experience in the identification of human skeletal remains. He is curator of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Anthropology and the head of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ newly established Humanitarian and Human Rights Center.

-Sarah Wagner: An Associate Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University, Dr. Wagner has written about forensic science, social repair, and the politics of memory in post-conflict societies, specifically the cases of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the U.S. military’s attempts to account for its war dead. Her book, To Know Where He Lies: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebrenica’s Missing (2008) examined the efforts to identify the remains of over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys, victims of the July 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
Foggy Bottom - 1957 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
Room: B17
crime scene
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