History of EAAF
In early 1984, CONADEP and the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a non-governmental human rights organization searching for children that disappeared with their parents, requested assistance from Mr. Eric Stover, then-director of the Science and Human Rights Program at American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Stover organized a delegation of forensic experts to travel to Argentina, where they found several hundred exhumed, unidentified skeletons stored in plastic bags in dusty storerooms at several medical legal institutes. Many bags held the bones of more than one individual. The delegation called for an immediate halt to exhumations.
Among the AAAS delegation members was Dr. Clyde Snow, one of the world's foremost experts in forensic anthropology. Dr. Snow called on archaeologists, anthropologists and physicians to begin exhumations and analysis of skeletal remains using traditional archaeological and forensic anthropology techniques. Snow returned to Argentina repeatedly during the next five years, trained current EAAF members, and helped form the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF).
Following Dr. Snow, EAAF is among the groups that pioneered the application of forensic sciences to the documentation of human rights violations. In 1986, the team began expanding its activities beyond Argentina and has since worked in nearly thirty countries throughout the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe.
A guiding principle for the team since its foundation has been to maintain the utmost respect for the wishes of victims' relatives and communities concerning the investigations, and to work closely with them through all stages of exhumation and identification processes. We are keenly aware that the identification of remains are a great source of solace to families suffering from trauma caused by having a loved one "disappeared."
EAAF is currently made up of thirteen part-time and full-time staff, who specialize in archaeology, physical and social anthropology, computer sciences and law. In addition, volunteers and a network of international professionals assist and support our work.
EAAF also works towards the improvement of international and national forensic protocols, transparency of criminal investigations, and the inclusion of independent forensic experts in human rights investigations to strengthen the field of forensic science and human rights.
Since EAAF was founded, other forensic anthropology teams have been established in Chile (1989), Guatemala (1991), and Peru (2001). Today, the Latin American teams exchange members for cross-training and occasionally work together on foreign missions. Notable among the latter have been the United Nations War Crimes Tribunals in former Yugoslavia. In February 2003, members of these teams and other forensic anthropologists working in Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela gathered to form the Association of Latin American Forensic Anthropologists.