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Workshops on forensic anthropology for the investigation of forced disappearances in El Salvador

San Salvador, July 29, 2022. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized three specialized workshops on forensic anthropology in El Salvador, to enhance the scientific knowledge in the process of search, identification and return of disappeared persons.
The activities were implemented in the framework of the project "Strengthening the implementation of case management tools for disappearances and torture of women, men and youth related to organized crime", which is implemented from 2020 to 2023 with the financial support of the Government of Canada.
The training was delivered by Ms. Johanna F. Pinzón Suarez, forensic anthropologist from the Colombian Attorney General's Office, who addressed the general aspects of forensic anthropology; the field work related to recovery and exhumation; and the laboratory procedures, including interdisciplinary analysis and evidence processing.
During the sessions, participants also developed practical activities to learn about the field requirements of the process of exhumation, in accordance with international standards in the field. They also expanded their knowledge on the importance of the interdisciplinary approach and the implementation of best practices.
The workshops benefited 120 participants from the Attorney General's Office and the National Civil Police from the central, paracentral, eastern and western regions of the country, that are part of the task forces for the investigation of these cases. The participants share their experience:

"The content developed in the course has been very interesting, the search, the collection and especially the technique for the recovery of disappeared persons that allows us to improve our organization, ensuring the promptness and responses that should be given to victims and their families, as well as the preservation of all the evidence that can be found at the scene of the crime to bring cases to trial", Olga Alberto.

"Since March of this year the training has been developed in different stages, and this day we culminated with a very good learning experience that gives us tools for our investigations. The practical workshop has been fabulous for us and for all the personnel involved in disappeared persons cases, it has been beneficial because it reinforces our knowledge for the search of victims who have not yet been located. It´s an effort that allows us to respond and return the remains to the families", Georgina Trejo.

"I found the course very interesting, the different dynamics developed can be used in our environment, especially oriented to cases of disappeared persons, which is the area in which we are working. I´m grateful to UNODC and we hope that we can continue receiving more training oriented to this specialized area", Victor Leonor Villalobos.

“I´ve been participating in the course of disappeared persons, during the forensic anthropology workshop we put into practice the knowledge related to this area, we addressed the investigations, types of graves, and we learned the importance of a detailed-oriented perspective to solve cases of disappeared persons”, Carmen Muñoz

“The course expands practical and field knowledge in the search for disappeared persons within the framework of the law, which allows us to perform better in our daily work”, José Rauda.

In addition to the workshops, Ms. Pinzón visited the Anthropology area of the Institute of Legal Medicine of El Salvador.