Accepted Paper:

Forensic anthropological endeavors, missing persons and the construction of genocide in Guatemala and Somaliland  

Authors:

Markus Hoehne (University of Leipzig)
Shakira Bedoya Sanchez (International Organization for Standardization (ISO))

Paper short abstract:

We discuss how missing persons have been utilized in forensic interventions for the construction of genocide cases in Guatemala and Somaliland. In both cases, forensic teams from Latin America are involved and the endeavors are a constant source of contestation, legitimation and resistance.

Paper long abstract:

Forensic investigations of mass graves have become a frequent occurrence globally. Three decades ago, a certain tradition of "forensic anthropology for human rights" was started in Latin America. It aimed to find the bodies of persons that have gone missing under various military regimes, taking pain to accommodate the needs of the victims (e.g., the families of the disappeared). In some cases, missing persons have been used by forensic investigations to research into patterns of violence over the years of dictatorship and to underpin criminal cases.

This papers looks into the way missing persons have been utilized in forensic interventions for the construction of genocide cases in two contexts: Guatemala and Somaliland (a secessionist Republic in northwestern Somalia). In both contexts forensic teams from Latin America are involved and the missing bodies are a constant source of political power, contestation, legitimation and resistance.

We argue that there is a fundamental difference between the inductive way in which forensic anthropology led to sustaining a genocide case in Guatemala, and the way the government in Somaliland seeks to build a genocide claim that is in line with its quest for recognition. Still, through the allegations of genocide, a relationship between both cases is established. Comparing both examples illuminates, how dependent the search for missing bodies and the dealing with dead bodies is on the political context in which forensic interventions take place.

Panel P045
Missing persons, unidentified bodies: addressing absences and negotiating identifications