Human Rights Issues Addressed by Examining the
Santa Cruz Massacre and the San Vicente Cemetery Mass Graves Krystal Gibbens
Texas Tech University
April 14, 2011
Human rights are constantly violated. This has been an issue in the past and will continue in the future. Recently, science has caught up. With advances in forensic science, especially in anthropology and archeology, graves can not only be located, but thoroughly excavated, leading to positive victim identification, family closure, and in some instances prosecution. Two specific cases include the Santa Cruz massacre and the San Vicente mass graves. Both of these cases rely on forensic methods and techniques for properly exhuming and excavating. These cases are similar, both involve violations of human rights, both occur within a cemetery, and both are investigated by the same forensic team. The San Vicente cemetery excavations are yielding positive results. Many bodies have been recovered thus far. In the case of the Santa Cruz massacre, no bodies have surfaced yet, but efforts continue. Scientists working on these cases, as well as family members of victims, continue learning new information, new techniques, and new methods everyday, and thus in turn the world is learning, learning how to cope with these types of tragedies and how to justify the victims with the brain of forensic science and the heart of human right organizations.
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment,” states Article 5 of the Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, violations of this article have been taking place recently and long before it was ever instated. Two somewhat recent cases violating human rights include: the Santa Cruz Massacre which occurred in East Timor in 1991, and the San Vicente Cemetery Mass Graves in Argentina resulting from the “Dirty War”. Both cases involve inhumane killing, degrading disposal, and ironically a cemetery. Since the end of World War II, nearly 250 armed conflicts have been recorded, resulting in approximately 170 million casualties, thus over 170 million human right violations. Because of this, the need for forensic experts has never been greater concerning the collection and evaluation of evidence at these sites (Steadman and Haglund 2005). Forensic archaeologists and anthropologists have been thrust to the forefront of these endeavors because of their extensive training in grave recognition, exhumation, and human body identification. In the past evidence from poor recovery attempts did not hold up in court, due to the unscientific methods and inexperienced teams (Blau and Skinner 2005). This reinforces the need for controlled, methodological excavations performed by trained, experienced professionals. In the past, archaeology was mainly used for excavating ruins and historical sites, today archaeological techniques are being used more and more for forensic investigations. This began in the 1980’s with the mass killings in Argentina (Blau and Skinner 2005). Today these investigations are undertaken to obtain evidence for prosecution and to meet the humanitarian aim of retrieving remains for positive identifications, leading to family closure. Besides, archaeological and anthropological knowledge, knowledge of local laws and customs in the area under investigation is useful, along with patience, flexibility, and persistence (Burns 1998). Both the Santa Cruz and San Vicente sites involved professionals performing scientific procedures to bring justice to the families of victims and ultimately the countries affected. Background
On November 28, 1975, just nine days after East Timor declared its independence from Portugal, Indonesia invaded and annexed the country (EAAF 2006). The Indonesian military carried out massacres and torture sessions and forced...
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