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Comprehensive Forensic Approaches for the Disappeared in Mexico

To provide answers to families searching for their disappeared loved ones, Friends of FAFG and FAFG are helping strengthen the forensic capacity and investigation protocols of Mexican institutions at the federal and state levels through the Comprehensive Forensic Approaches for the Disappeared project.

These institutions primarily consist of the National Search Commission (CNB), the National Human Identification Center (CNIH) and Regional Human Identification Centers in Coahuila and Jalisco. This collaboration has been successful in developing local forensic capacity in FAFG's multidisciplinary human identification approach.

Additionally, as part of its support, FAFG has accompanied the collection of family reference samples as well as skeletal DNA samples taken from recovered human remains. These samples are then processed in FAFG's ISO:17025-accredited laboratory located in Guatemala City. The genetic profiles from these samples are returned to the relevant institutions in Mexico and uploaded into DNA databases for massive comparison.

Friends of FAFG believes that the capacity built in these areas contributes to a long-term response to the issue of missing and disappeared persons in Mexico.

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Forensics for Truth, Justice, and Memorialization

In Guatemala, Friends of FAFG supports the FAFG in its efforts to identify the Disappeared and preserve the historical memory of the Internal Armed Conflict (1960-1996). FAFG has more than 26 years working alongside families to investigate cases of Disappeared persons, identify victims, and return their bodies to their communities for dignified burial processes. The Forensics for Truth, Justice, and Memorialization project advances FAFG's multidisciplinary human identification process, which weaves together data gathered from victim investigation, forensic archaeology, forensic anthropology, and forensic genetics which is used to confirm the identities of the Disappeared. 

As the search continues, preserving historical memory is necessary for non-repetition. As part of these efforts, the project supports the ongoing development of the San Juan Comalapa Memorial for Victims of Enforced Disappearance. The Memorial was inaugurated in June 2018, and is located on the site of a former military base where the FAFG recovered the bodies of 220 victims of enforced disappearance, 79 of which have since been identified. FAFG has worked alongside local CSO Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas de Guatemala (CONAVIGUA) to develop the memorial into a space for for historical clarification, collective remembering, and the dignified memorialization of the Disappeared.

In order to further safeguard collective memory, Friends of FAFG and FAFG conduct, index, and archive life history interviews of loved ones of victims to share their testimony. By making the stories of victims' relatives visible, Friends of FAFG and FAFG hope to build trust with families to strengthen the collective process of identifying the Disappeared and remembering their lives.

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Global Forensic Academy

The Global Forensic Academy  provides holistic, victim-centered, and multidisciplinary forensic training to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and key stakeholders from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia regions to advance transitional justice processes, support South-South coordination and facilitate community-led networks working to search for and identify disappeared persons worldwide. Through the academy, Friends of FAFG brings together individuals and organizations searching for the Disappeared for an immersive training experience that consists of 4 components.


  1. Completion of FAFG's Introductory Online Course, which is available in English, Spanish, French, and Arabic to establish a common base of forensic knowledge.

  2. Participation in a 2-week hands-on training that takes place in the offices and laboratories of FAFG in Guatemala City. 

  3. Implementation of a local-level project that puts into practice knowledge gained through the trainings with financial and technical support provided by the FAFG.

  4. Visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda for a follow-up workshop that reinforces previous trainings and provides guidance on additional topics. 

Through the first 5 iterations of the Forensic Academy, FAFG has received 56 participants representing 42 CSOs and 18 different countries. Together, the alumni of the Forensic Academy form a worldwide network and community of searchers and transitional justice practitioners. 


Forensic Assistance for the Disappeared in Colombia

In Colombia, Friends of FAFG coordinates forensic accompaniment, trainings, and exchanges with State search institutions such has the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the Search Unit for Disappeared Persons (UBPD), the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (INLMCF), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and family members. Through these processes, the Forensic Assistance for the Disappeared in Colombia project allows Friends of FAFG and FAFG to share their forensic experience to strengthen investigation protocols, local forensic capacity, and collaboration between key stakeholders.


Most recently, through the  Forensic Assistance for the Disappeared in Colombia project, experts at FAFG led a multisectorial process with government institutions, universities, civil society representatives, and family members to update of the Minimum Forensic Standards for Human Identification protocol, which establishes a minimum forensic threshold for human identification. By raising awareness about forensic strategies, Friends of FAFG and FAFG support the efforts to identify the disappeared in Colombia. Additionally, FAFG has coordinated workshops on its Multidisciplinary Human Identification System for 16 civil society organizations in Cúcuta and Medellín. Finally, technical forensic personnel from FAFG have accompanied 3 exhumations with the Technical Forensic Support Group (GATEF) of the JEP.

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