People have not stopped knocking on the doors of the National Institute of Legal Medicine (INML), either looking for a missing family member, or trying to manage the delivery of a body. Nor have the requirements of the judges or investigators ceased. His work as a scientific support for the Attorney General’s Office is essential.
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The first faces to be seen in the emblematic building are those of the people from the information group of deceased and disappeared persons.
There was Carolina Sanabria, who is already 13 years old.. Before, he says, he had to face drunk or aggressive people who, in pain, demanded violenceBut that has been changed because there are more controls. They have steel temper because what they hear is not easy.
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They do that first search that can take a family out of uncertainty. “We report, for example, if the person is deceased.” Of course, before you should do some interviews that now, due to the situation, are carried out by virtual means. All day they are giving information on the bodies, on whether or not the autopsy arrived. “We try that people do not wait so long, not to violate their rights, so that when they return, the reports are ready and they can do the corresponding paperwork so that they deliver the body.”
The work is complex, sometimes several people from the same family call, sometimes the news generates fainting, they say that they are already tanned to understand the pain because they can attend in a day from 30 to 50 people, each with a different story, and not all have the same degree of tolerance. “She is my father, she is my daughter, she is my brother, give her to me,” is the phrase that they often hear every day.
In another office of the institute was Rubén Darío Cortés Echeverry along with his team. He is a forensic technician and is clear on the date he entered: August 18, 1993. They have been 27 years in the hard work of finding a name.
He says it is the beginning of any investigation. He and the team he works with are experts in lophoscopy, the science that studies the three branches of identification; dactyloscopy, chiroscopy and pelmatoscopy, which analyzes the footprints. That is, it analyzes the traces left by the ridges that appear on our epidermis.
When we arrived he was in the task of identifying a national. “Each case that is filed is a form for us. We also have a connection with the National Registrar and thus, through the ID or with alphanumeric data, we carry out the search”.
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But when there are no names or numbers, the fingerprints remain, and these are processed in a scanner to reveal an identity. Sometimes they are not so clear and they become a challenge for these technicians, who have the walls upholstered with images of the human body.
Silence reigned in Legal Medicine, but it is because most work under absolute concentration.
Like Julián Castiblanco, one of the entity’s psychiatrists and who is in charge of forensic interviews in sessions that can last up to two hours, plus the review of the file.
The professional meets the requirements of the competent authorities. “In general, it is a person who is in some process of a civil or criminal nature. We solve some questions in the path of forensic psychiatry” Each interview has a different object.
One of those with a great responsibility is that of determining non-imputability. “They are criminal cases in which the person commits a crime and is involved in a process. So, what is sought is if there is any cause that allows one to glimpse that at the time of the criminal acts the person in question could understand or self-determine. If you meet both criteria, the judge will determine whether or not you are indictable. In this analysis, it can be determined if there is any alteration of the mental sphere that allows one of these two criteria, understanding or self-determination, to be affected.
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“With our diagnosis, the judge can determine if a person will serve a sentence in a prison institute or if they need a rehabilitation process or be in a psychiatric center. It all depends on the forensic diagnosis that is reached. We are one more proof in the process to take the judge beyond reasonable doubt. “
There were many restricted areas for obvious reasons. In fact, it was heard that the bodies of the victims of the Tasajera explosion, Magdalena, were there and that some had tested positive for covid-19. That was also her job.
So we only had access to the area where the thermocyclists were, also known as the PCR machine, a device used in molecular biology that allows DNA amplification. There, the professionals, covered from head to toe, analyzed each sample.
Thanks to them, minors are able to be legally recognized, the family of a disappeared person is encouraged, individuals or biological traces or relationships between people are identified.
Andrea del Pilar Barrera is one of the forensic professionals and her job is to carry out genetic analyzes. “We support the interdisciplinary work carried out by experts, medical anthropologists and genetic biologists. Each case has its complexity, but it is satisfactory to support these investigations. For example, in the case of the disappeared or in the area of criminalistics ”.
Jorge Arturo Jiménez, director in charge of the National Institute of Legal Medicine since February 2020, is a cautious man who prefers that his team is the one that accounts for the thoroughness and importance of his work. “Everyone works to allow access to justice and to restore the rights of people, even in the pandemic. Neither the country nor the world is over. ” Victims of domestic violence, sexual crime, autopsies for violent deaths, and identification processes do not and will not stop.
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And although between 70 to 80 percent of the institute’s staff work from homeThe rest must do it in person due to the nature of their work. Doctors, photographers, pathologists have been firm during the pandemic and with all biosafety protocols.
When the corpses are not identified and die from covid-19, likewise to Legal Medicine their identification corresponds. “Therefore, We have been able to provide important information to the National Institute of Health. There are 11 confirmed cases in Bogotá and 100 or 117 presumptive cases. Therefore, we have to take special care in all procedures. “
He explained that, although at the beginning of the pandemic there was a decrease in all forms of violence, “the criminal structures are rearranged and the worst of the people is evident again.” During the interview they were already reporting a projectile injury, a burn, a traffic accident, a hanging, and several cases to establish. Normal, in Legal Medicine.
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There is already a direct line on women’s risk factors with the Prosecutor’s Office
One of the most important contributions of the National Institute of Legal Medicine is the risk assessments carried out on women victims of violence.
Denisse Álvarez, psychologist and master in Legal and Forensic Psychology, has been working at the institute since 2015. “What we do is determine what level of risk they are in according to what they have experienced. If they can suffer fatal injuries from their partners, partners, husbands or former partners. “
Once they have denounced the episodes in the Prosecutor’s Office or the family police stations, they are given a letter to visit Legal Medicine. There, they undergo a first examination by a forensic doctor and then with a psychologist.
The patient is given a report, but the most important thing is that this record is available to the Nation’s Attorney General from the Information System of the Nation’s Attorney General for the Accusatory Oral Criminal System. (Spoa). That is, prosecutors can review them to make decisions. This, because many women for fear or other reasons lose those reports or their partners break them.
During this pandemic, risk factors have been triggered by the quarantine. “Above all, due to the issue of intolerance,” said Álvarez, who explained that he has dealt with cases in which violence breaks out for minimal reasons, such as a couple who argued over who was right about the capacity of the home internet. “He said it was 80 megabytes and she 40, and since they did not agree, he ended up attacking her.” It is also a concern that children who were not previously involved in their parents’ discussions are now.
Another triggering factor is withdrawal syndrome. “Many men who drank despair and end up being violent”, Alvarez said. So he says, his area does therapeutic justice. “Listening to someone who has never been is comforting.”
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