Symes applies trauma specialty to
human rights abuses in Juarez

“I’m not much on conspiracy theories, but there is definitely something wrong there,” said Mercyhurst forensic anthropologist Dr. Steven Symes who is back on campus after spending March 26-31 (2006) in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, working to identify the remains of dozens of women among the hundreds murdered in this border town since 1993.

Symes worked under the auspices of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, a non-governmental, nonprofit organization that applies forensic sciences to the investigation of human rights atroci­ties worldwide.

Mexico’s failure to solve or stop the mur­ders of young women, mostly students or factory workers between 15 and 25 years of age, has brought worldwide condemnation and accusations of police complicity.

“There are far too many teenagers dying there,” said Symes, who spent his days in Juarez examining victims’ remains for evidence of trauma that would help determine cause and manner of death.

Critics say investigations into the serial slayings have ground to a halt because of corruption, incompetence and witness intimida­tion. Most of the murders remain unsolved and various groups claim the responsibility for them spans the gamut from a single serial killer to copycat killers to drug traffickers.

Symes said the investigation has since been taken away from local officials and placed in the hands of the state prosecutor’s office.

“I would hope that the ongoing work of the Argentinean team and others working collaboratively will help bring closure to families seeking to identify their mothers, daughters, granddaughters and sisters, and eventually, bring those responsible for these crimes to justice,” Symes said.

According to Amnesty International, as of February 2005, 370 bodies had been found, and more are missing from this border city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

The safety of those seeking justice in these cases has also been compromised, particularly since human rights lawyer Dante Almaraz, who had worked on a number of the Juarez cases, was shot dead by unknown individuals in Juarez Jan. 26.

Symes said the Argentinean team was under guard at times during the course of his stay in Juarez.

Release date: March 31, 2006



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