Saturday, 21 November 2009

Argentina: DNA Debate

I have mentioned several times ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]) the recent court ruling that allows the compulsory DNA testing of suspected disappeared children (i.e. the now-adult adoptees who may be the biological offspring of parents killed by the military regime). The issue of forcibly taking DNA samples from hairbrushes, toothbrushes or underwear (not from compulsory blood tests) is obviously a thorny one upon which prominent human rights activists disagree.

"It's an absolute invasion of the right to biological privacy," constitutional lawyer Gregorio Badeni told The Associated Press. "No one has the right to know what I have inside my body. That belongs only to me. I can give it up voluntarily, but no one can obligate me to deliver it."

Estela de Carlotto, who heads the grandmothers group, disagrees.

By allowing officials to extract DNA from personal effects, the law "doesn't violate in any way the body or the privacy," she said. "It will surely help discover the identity of the grandchildren we have been searching for for so many years."

"If an adult doesn't want to know his origins, you have to respect it," said Julio Strassera, a former prosecutor who put top military leaders on trial.

"The state cannot leave in the hands of a young person, raised by a member of the military, manipulated by guilt, the decision of whether or not to learn his true identity," said Horacio Pietragalla, who learned in 2003 that he was taken as a baby from his biological mother, Liliana Corti.

Argentina forces dirty war orphans to provide DNA (AP)

I am sympathetic to the Grandmothers' position on this one, although I think Carlotto is a little disingenous to suggest that the privacy of the person in question is not violated. I think it certainly is, it's simply an issue of deciding that this problem is outweighed by the importance of the truth. The situation must be agonising for all those involved, and particularly for the potentially disappeared 'child' at the centre of it. When one considers how many of their adopted parents were personally involved in the crimes that led to their adoption, and that crimes against humanity were being committed, I think the genetic origins need to be clarified. One does not force a victim of abduction to decide whether or not to prosecute their kidnappers.

The majority of the disappeared children who speak in interviews speak of their gratitude in finding their biological families - but of course, it is likely to be the most confident and well-adjusted individuals who are going around giving interviews (and becoming politicians, etc).

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