Reuniting Families Separated by War

Date: 2007-01-01
Source: PHR

International Forensic Program

Reuniting Families Separated by War
PHR’s Work with Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos

Living for more than twenty years knowing only that their child was disappeared during a violent civil war in the 1980s is a reality for hundreds of families currently searching for these lost children with the help of the Salvadoran organization Pro-Búsqueda. Fearing for the lives of their families, many parents watched as their child was forcibly taken by the military. Other children were lost when family members were killed or disappeared. An estimated 2,300 Salvadoran children were adopted in the US and Europe during these years. Many of these children have grown up in their adoptive homes not knowing what happened to their families in El Salvador. Some of them know their birth names, other remember faces, many have no memories.

Many of the missing children who were disappeared during the 1980s are now in their 20s and are beginning to come forward to search for their families. The number of known cases (787 in 2006) increases annually, with approximately 25 new cases of missing children in El Salvador presented to Pro-Búsqueda each year. The organization has confirmed the identities of over 300 children and continues to locate approximately 10 children each year.

Since 1994, the International Forensic Program at Physicians for Human Rights has supported the work of Pro-Búsqueda by arranging for DNA testing by a network of US-based DNA experts to confirm identifications of El Salvador’s missing children. In addition to DNA identifications in the 90s, the IFP has assisted Pro-Búsqueda in locating adoptive parents in the US, and in making preliminary calls to contact family members. The IFP’s role has grown to include providing guidance on legal and psycho-social support.

If you believe you may be one of the children disappeared from El Salvador during the civil war from 1980-1992, or know someone of Salvadoran decent who was adopted during this time, please contact the International Forensic Program at forensic [at] phrusa [dot] org or Pro-Búsqueda at asociacionprobusqueda [at] gmail [dot] com.

Para visitar el sitio de Pro-Busqueda en español, haz un clic en el siguiente vínculo:

Timeline –

* 1980-1992 – Civil War in El Salvador.
* August 1994 – Pro-Búsqueda founded by Father Jon Cortina.
* 1994 – IFP Director Eric Stover and consultant Robert Kirschner travel to El Salvador to collect the first DNA samples for Pro-Búsqueda.
* 1994 – IFP launches DNA Reunification Project.
* 1996 – IFP Consultant Robert Kirschner confirms first identification in the US.
* 1996 – Eric Stover expands support of Pro-Búsqueda to include UC Berkley’s Center for Human Rights.
* Pathologist Robert Kirschner continues to support the investigations and identifications of Pro-Búsqueda as Director of the IFP.
* 2003 – Pro-Búsqueda support expanded to include a group of US-based DNA analysts.
* DOJ laboratory offers to type DNA samples from biological parents and compile genetic profiles.
* IFP consultant Henriette Stratman designs database for DNA samples.
* March 2005 – In a case presented by Pro-Búsqueda, the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights issued a sentence against the Salvadoran State to respond to the forced disappearance of Erlinda and Emestina Cruz.
* July 2006 – database of 807 profiles is officially turned over to Pro-Búsqueda.
* April 2007 – IFP Director Stefan Schmitt travels to El Salvador for the reunification of Suzanne Berghaus.
* July 2007 – Press conference, Boston, MA. Three young adults share their stories.
* November 2007 – PHR offers DNA kinship analysis course in El Salvador hosted by Pro-Búsqueda


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