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Silent WitnessForensic DNA Evidence in Criminal Investigations and Humanitarian Disasters$
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Henry Erlich, Eric Stover, and Thomas J. White

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190909444

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190909444.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 01 December 2021

The Living Disappeared

The Living Disappeared

Forensic DNA Typing and the Search for Argentina’s Stolen Children

(p.149) Chapter 7 The Living Disappeared
Silent Witness

Mariana Herrera Piñero

Eric Stover

Melina Tupa

Víctor B. Penchaszadeh

Oxford University Press

This chapter tells the story of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, or Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and their search for more than 500 grandchildren who were kidnapped by the Argentine military or born in captivity during military rule from 1976 to 1983. Most of the parents of these children were executed and buried in clandestine graves, while their children were given to childless military and civilian couples. Hope turned the Abuelas into detectives. Over many years, they examined thousands of pages of public documents, conducted stakeouts, and went undercover in their search for clues to the whereabouts of their missing grandchildren. But sleuthing was easy compared to convincing courts that the children they had located were biologically related to the grandparents who claimed them. In spring 1984, several foreign geneticists came to the aid of the Abuelas. Six months later, the first grandchild was identified on the basis of genetic analysis and returned to her grandmother. DNA sequencing soon followed, and in 1987, the Argentine Congress passed a law establishing the Banco Nacional de Datos Genéticos (National Genetic Data Bank), dedicated exclusively to identifying Argentina’s missing children. To date, 127 stolen children have been identified, most of them based on DNA analysis. While tracing this history, the chapter explores the scientific, legal, and psychosocial challenges that have arisen during the Abuelas’ search for their missing grandchildren.

Keywords:   Argentina’s disappeared, genetic data bank, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, illegal adoption

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