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Peru: Mortal remains of 92 people returned to families and community after 25 years

27-08-2009 News Release 09/171

Ayacucho (ICRC) – The families and neighbours of 92 people who disappeared 25 years ago amid internal conflict in Peru, and whose mortal remains were discovered in a common grave in Putis, in the Ayacucho region, are finally going to be able to bury their loved ones with dignity in their own community.

On 19 August the families received official death certificates relating to their loved ones.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided coffins, arranged for transportation for families and provided emotional support.

Dozens of relatives, accompanied by Putis community authorities, arrived last week in Huamanga, the capital of Ayacucho, to receive from the supra-provincial human rights ministry the death certificates and documents specifying the circumstances in which their loved ones perished. 

" I can finally bury my Rita so that her soul will rest in peace, " said Marina Quispe Saavedra, her mother, whose daughter was barely 10 years old when she lost her. Fifteen months ago, she was present as the exhumations took place and recognized the clothing of her daughter, whose identity was confirmed by genetic (DNA) analysis.

" The expectations and hope of finding a loved one keep rising as the investigation proceeds. The exhumation of mortal remains, the clothing exhibitions, the identification by relatives and, finally, the return of the remains help to bring the families'mourning to an end after 25 years of anguish, " said Valeria Gamboni, the ICRC's head of delegation for Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. " Nevertheless, rapid steps must be taken to obtain redress for the families and to improve their living conditions. "

Of the 92 bodies exhumed, only 28 were positively identified by forensic anthropologists. Attempts to identify the others were unsuccessful. A major obstacle is that, in some cases, entire families perished, leaving no one with whom a DNA comparison can be ma de. Twenty of the bodies were those of women and 48 of children, 38 of whom were under 10 years of age.

The issue of missing persons represents a significant challenge for the ICRC. Over 15,000 families still do not know what happened to their loved ones who disappeared during Peru's internal armed conflict that lasted from 1980 to 2000.

Although the process of searching for and identifying the mortal remains of missing persons is well under way, it is painstakingly slow. Over the past five years, according to official sources, light has been shed on only 1.8 per cent of remaining cases. Mechanisms are needed that can speed up the process and further measures must be taken to ensure that the families receive answers without delay. " Their anguish seems never ending, " said Ms Gamboni.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Dafne Martos, ICRC Lima, tel: +511 997 56 02 40