3.2.3 Investigations & physicial evidence

In conflictual situations, physical evidence can be more convincing to some people than eyewitness testimony. For example, only after the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team's dramatic exhumations at El Mozote in El Salvador did the world, and the U.S. government in particular, fully accept the story of the sole eyewitness, Rufina Amaya. One aspect of the exhumations showed that several dozen children had been killed by bullets of the kind used by the Salvadoran Army; the children had been found in a mass grave (Danner 1993).

If physical evidence focuses on a particular event (as at El Mozote) or on a particular series of events (for example, the work of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team on the massacres in Rabinal, Guatemala; EAFG 1995), it may not be necessary to include the evidence in the information management system. Instead, the report from the work as a document may be sufficient. However, if small bits of evidence that pertain to many different cases come into the organization over a long period of time, it may be correspondingly more difficult for one or a few people to keep all of the information that pertains to many cases simultaneously in mind. Evidence from investigators in the field who come across physical evidence, hospital records on one or several unrelated cases, and the like may fall into this category. In this latter situation it may be necessary to classify the physical evidence and include it in the information management system. The classification of the evidence follows the same rules as the process for questionnaire design and documentary evidence. The first step is for the organization to decide what is relevant to their final analysis. With a set of questions about relevant facts, physical evidence can be treated in much the same way as documentary evidence.

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