The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, FAFG is a scientific, autonomous, non-profit NGO, whose aim is to strengthen the Guatemalan justice system and respect for human rights by gathering evidence, investigating, documenting, and raising awareness about past and present human rights violations. Its main tools in pursuing this goal are a multi-disciplinary approach that applies forensic and social sciences to exhumations of clandestine graves and the analysis of human remains in order to reveal each victim’s identity and possible cause of death.
FAFG offers support to society in the reconstruction of recent history, provides dignity to the victims and their families by means of presenting evidence to the justice system.
FAFG’s laboratories and resources also contribute to the identification of missing people from mass disaster contexts as well as current human rights violations.
In order to reach their goals, FAFG has an integrated approach to their work that involves four scientific departments:
1. The Department of Investigation and Victim Documentation is in charge of recovering documents and conducting interviews with the relatives, neighbors and witnesses, to reconstruct the history of what occurred in the communities or areas under investigation. The investigators ascertain who the victims were, what they were like (features) and what happened to them. They also construct genealogies and collect DNA samples from the victims’ relatives.
2. The Department of Forensic Archaeology (Darq) is in charge of locating, excavating and exhuming clandestine graves as indicated by testimonies from witnesses or family members. Forensic archaeologists are responsible for the recovery of the remains of the victims and the documentation of the entire process.
3. The Department of Forensic Anthropology (DAF) is where experts analyze the skeletal remains, develop a biological profiles and determine the cause of death of each victim.
4. The Department of Forensic Genetics (DGF) was created in order to generate DNA profiles from skeletal samples from the victims and DNA reference samples from their living relatives. The comparison of these DNA profiles leads to the identification of the disappeared. Furthermore the genetic laboratory has the ability to analyze forensic samples of any kind.
As a result, the FAFG recovers and documents the evidence, identifies the disappeared, determines cause of death and reconstructs the events, which contributes to the justice system via expert reports to the Public Ministry.
The FAFG has taken part in international human rights missions in Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq and Peru, among others.