The Argentine Senate on Nov. 19 voted 57-1 to approve a law that would authorize the government to obtain DNA samples from individuals suspected to have been born to forced disappearance victims of the 1976-1983 “Dirty War.” The law will amend Article 218 of the Criminal Penal Code to allow minimal biological samples to be taken from a person to determine identity, authorizing judges to issue warrants to obtain samples using the least coercive methods necessary. Controversy around the law stemmed from issues of consent and right to privacy, as well as an individual’s right to refuse knowledge of their biological parents.
Among the supporters of the law is the association Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, a group dedicated to obtaining restitution for the relatives of persons disappeared during the dictatorship. Among the vocal opponents to the law is Ernestina Herrera de Noble, owner of the influential media group El Clarin, who has two adopted children born during the years of the Dirty War.
Also Nov. 18, the Senate voted 38-20 to approve a law that establishes the National Genetic Information Bank as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The same Senate session also approved a law that will allow non-governmental human rights organizations to bring suit in cases involving human rights violations or crimes against humanity, including crimes forced disappearances.
Last week, the National Chamber of Criminal Sentencing enhanced a term imposed on a couple convicted of abducting children of forced disappearance victims and suppressing the child’s identity, holding that these offenses constitute crimes against humanity. In August, the Supreme Court of Argentina ruled in the case of two suspected children of disappeared persons that individuals cannot be required to submit blood samples to test whether they were abducted as children during the military regime, but that genetic material can be collected from personal effects. The case was raised by the association Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. The association has been able to locate about 100 of the 500 children they have set out to find. (Jurist, Nov. 20)