Monday, November 03, 2014

Excavating El Salvador's clandestine graves

Over this past weekend, Salvadorans celebrated the memories of their departed family members by visiting cemeteries and graves on the Day of the Dead.   But for many many Salvadoran families, this is a time of deep pain because their loved ones have disappeared in El Salvador's endless violence and their bodies have never been found.

One man working to help find those bodies is Israel Ticas, a criminologist in the office of the Attorney General in El Salvador.   His gruesome work was recently highlighted in an Associated Press story titled From gangs to the army, El Salvador's lawyer for the dead won't let killers escape justice.  Here is an excerpt:

It is painstaking labor in a land littered with secret graves. This is
the 30th excavation this year for criminologist Israel Ticas, who
leads the teams that search for bodies still missing from a decades-
old civil war, and for those killed more recently by street gangs who
hold most of El Salvador in their clutches.... 
Some would argue that digging up graves is a fool's errand in El
Salvador, a country with the world's second highest per capita
homicide rate after neighboring Honduras. But this is a vocation for
Ticas, who calls himself the "lawyer for the dead.“ In fact, he is a
systems engineer turned police detective who taught himself
forensic science. Most address him by his academic title,
He considers all killers to be devils, no matter their affiliation. He
calls himself a lawyer because he seeks justice for the dead,
whoever they might be and whoever may have killed them. It so
happens that gangs are doing the lion's share of killing to enforce
their control, and going to great lengths to conceal the dead, many
of them women and discarded girlfriends. 
He calculates that in the last 12 years he has opened about 90
common graves with more than 700 bodies, about 60 percent of
them women and girls. That is a fraction of what's out there, he
believes, but Ticas does not have the time or staff to find all of
Read the rest of the article here.

Israel Ticas was the subject of a documentary released last year titled "The Engineer"  (advisory -- the trailer contains disturbing images)

The Engineer Official Trailer from Guerrilla Pictures on Vimeo.

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