Monday, 24 August 2009

Argentina: Estela Carlotto on DNA testing

Estela Carlotto, President of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, has an opinion piece in today's Pagina/12 which I translate here, with apologies for any stylistic infelicities - I'm very tired:

In a recent case, the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación) confirmed the validity of a raid made on the dwelling of a person presumed to be the child of disappeared people with the aim of recovering some personal objects and from them obtaining DNA to analyse in the National Genetic Database (Banco Nacional de Datos Genéticos) where samples of genetic material are stored from the family members of the disappeared who are searching for children born in captivity or abducted with their parents and never returned to their families.

In this form, the highest court in the land recognised the right of the Grandmothers to know where their children are and that, once found, justice is done for these abhorrent crimes, even against the will of those who were appropriated. And this is where the decision of the judges is particularly wise.

It is the State, in the form of the judiciary, which must assume responsibility for resolving the serious conflicts which arise as the consequence of the aberrant criminal plan of the dictatorship. To transfer this decision to the victims, far from avoiding their "revictimisation", actually provokes it, because if there is one argument which the young people who refuse a DNA test mention again and again, it is the fact that they do not want to be "guilty" of sending the people who raised them to jail. In the same way, giving them a sort of power of veto over the use of the DNA analysis as incriminatory evidence against their appropriators, as the judges Zaffaroni and Lorenzetti suggested in their opposing vote, would make them [the victims] "guilty" of the impunity [of the appropriators].

It is worth emphasising that until now, nine young people have recovered their identity by the method whose validity has been recognised by the Supreme Court. While these have by no means been processes without difficulties and contradictions, none of the young people has challenged the results once they were known. That is to say, they completely changed their position once they knew the truth. And it is a fact, as the judges of the Court must know and as the Grandmothers have learnt in more than three decades of indefatigable searching, that the truth will set you free.

La fuerza de la verdad (Pagina/12)

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