The world-renowned Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) has begun to carry out a unique aerial survey of the Campo de Mayo military garrison to identify burial sites of individuals who went missing during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.
Anthropologists will take to the skies to fly over the more than 5,000 hectares that housed four clandestine detention centres during the dictatorship era, following up a joint investigation by the Human Rights Secretariat, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and San Martín Federal Judge Alicia Vence.
The team began their “preliminary investigation” as far back as 2006 to probe the functioning of the clandestine detention centres and hence determine possible burial sites.
The Argentine scientists, acclaimed across the globe for the search and identification of the remains of the missing, have carried out this historic investigation in close co-operation with Juan Carlos “Cacho” Scarpati, a survivor who managed to escape from Campo de Mayo and bear witness to the horrors there.
“On the grounds there is a huge variety of buildings, vegetation etc, for which we plan to use for the first time in Argentina LIDAR aerial technology to determine zones of interest,” said Marcelo Castillo, the team’s search unit coordinator.
A plane featuring the laser-scanning system took off on Monday morning from Morón air base and for the next five hours swept the surface of Campo de Mayo, registering – along with the joint analysis by University of La Plata experts– what might determine “anomalies” below the surface. Experts believe the locations could point to persons buried by their killers.
Despite the expectations of officials and the families of the missing, the anthropologists have warned that there have already been four excavations of the grounds with negative results and that it has been proven that the main method of extermination in the clandestine centres of that Army garrison was the so-called “death flights.”
Pablo Llonto, one of the lawyers in the mega-trial of the crimes against humanity committed there, told the Télam state news agencies: “There are various indications from witnesses and conscripts or people who heard comments by somebody else that there were burials at Campo de Mayo.”
The lawyer, who is also a journalist, was thus referring to a soldier and a non-commissioned officer, among other witnesses, who pointed to a zone in which a cistern was located, known as “El Campito,” as a suitable place to deposit the remains of “subversives.”
With the LIDAR map terminated, the team will begin a stage of excavation, applying traditional archaeological techniques in the search for remains, as they did for the first time in mid-1984 in Boulogne cemetery, searching for a missing woman whom they never found.
In all the years since then the anthropological team has participated in missions in over 55 countries and has restored the identity of almost 1,000 missing Argentines, as well as gaining the respect of the international scientific community and human rights organisations after finding and identifying Che Guevara, demonstrating the summary execution of civilians in El Mozote and dismantling the official story regarding the disappearance of the teacher trainees of Ayotzinapa, Mexico, among many other interventions. The team was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year.