Searching for the Disappeared
At the FAFG we have identified more than 3,800 Disappeared persons The antemortem information, the recovery or exhumation of skeletal remains from graves, the analysis of skeletal remains, and the genetic information obtained from the FAFG Genetics Laboratory are all essential to the identification process.
Our multidisciplinary system
to support families in the search for truth, justice and the recovery of the remains of their loved ones.
Victim Investigation and Documentation
This department conducts the antemortem interview with the relatives of the Disappeared and victims from the Internal Armed Conflict. During the interview, we obtain information to create a profile of the victim and other information related to their disappearance or death
Also, we create a genogram to determine a family group with the DNA samples obtained. This helps us analyze and compare samples for future identifications.
FAFG investigators are the key point of contact with the families and they share transparent information about the comprehensive process in a respectful manner in order to generate trust.
We seek to properly recover the bodies or skeletal remains, as well as physical evidence and any associated artifacts. In addition, we conduct an assessment of the site and circumstances of how the remains were disposed of or buried, since all these elements will contribute to the identification process.
Using osteological methods, the biological profile (sex, age, height, etc.) of the recovered remains, circummortem traumas, and the possible cause of death of the victim are established. Each skeletal remain recovered is carefully washed and marked according to the nomenclature.
X-rays, graphic analysis, and photographs of the remains and associated artifacts (clothing, metal remains, bandages, ties, etc.) are taken. The process is completed by collecting a skeletal and / or dental sample to be sent to the Forensic Genetics Laboratory to extract DNA.
The genetic profiles obtained from the reference DNA samples of the relatives and the skeletal samples of the recovered human remains are uploaded into FAFG’s National Genetic Database of Relatives and Victims of Enforced Disappearance to be compared pending a match.
Our Forensic Genetics Laboratory has COGUANOR NTG / ISO / IEC 17025: 2017 accreditation, guaranteeing that the laboratory operates with an effective quality management system, generating technically valid results.
Confirmation of Human Identification
The objective is to scientifically guarantee reported identifications. The beginning of the confirmation of identification process initiates when a match is generated in the National Genetic Database managed by the FAFG Forensic Genetics Laboratory.
The comprehensive process to confirm an identification consists of the following steps: To review the genetic database, antemortem investigation and family reference sampling, the exhumation data, osteological analysis and collection of DNA samples, the osteological determination of individualizing factors, the comparison of forensic genetic and anthropological results and the confirmation of the skeletal remains.
With the support of the Department of Victim Investigation and Documentation, the team notifies the family of the identification of their loved one through a video call or home visit.
More about our process
Our work in the search for Disappeared persons also includes:
The FAFG Visual History Archive (VHA) is an effort in partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation to collect audio-visual testimonies of the survivors and eyewitnesses of the Internal Armed Conflict with the goal of advancing reconciliation, strengthening the investigation, and promoting educational initiatives in Guatemala and globally.
Since 2015, FAFG has recorded more than 650 life history interviews. Of these, 31 have already been indexed, subtitled, and integrated into the Visual History Archive of the USC Shoah Foundation. To view the interviews, create an account at iWitness.
The purpose of the evidence warehouse is to centralize and protect the evidence recovered in forensic investigations from the field and laboratories.
Evidence of each case investigated is organized and classified, which may include skeletons, skeletal remains, metallic remains, genetic samples, clothing, associated artifacts, etc., as well as the recorded archaeological files, exhumation documents, laboratory analysis, antemortem interviews, photographs, x-rays, and more.
The inhumation or burial is the final phase of the process, in which the skeletal remains are returned to the families and community. Family members are accompanied and assisted at every step, beginning when the FAFG expert carefully lays the skeletal remains in anatomical position in the casket.
Families often request that we place the remains in new clothing, as well other important items as an offering. We help coordinate the return of the remains with the local Prosecutor’s Office, and accompany the family and community members in a dignified burial for the loved one, respecting their traditions, culture, and time.