Genetic Tracing, Disappeared Children, and Justice

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Phuong Pham, Michele Harvey-Blankenship, Rachel Shigekane
Publication Date
June 1, 2010


The last several decades have witnessed a dramatic change in the methods of warfare. Civilians are now increasingly targets of violence, not just mere victims of collateral damage. Among civilians targeted, children and youth are subject to acts of violence, including enforced disappearances and enforced conscription. Children have been forcibly disappeared and forcibly conscripted in many countries including Argentina, El Salvador and northern Uganda. This paper focuses on the use or potential use of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or genetic testing to identify disappeared children (otherwise referred to as genetic tracing) in Argentina, El Salvador and northern Uganda and on how this evidence may be used to achieve justice. Identification of the disappeared, family reunification, support for the disappeared and redress for families of the disappeared have been identified as crucial to achieving justice in the wake of mass atrocities.