El Salvador’s 12-year civil war in the 1980s and early 1990s devastated the country, with more than 75,000 civilians killed and thousands of children separated from their families, many of them kidnapped by the Salvadoran military. An estimated 2,300 children were handed over for adoption in the United States and Europe.
In 1994, PHR began supporting Pro-Búsqueda, a Salvadoran organization that helps to locate missing children from the civil war period, and to reunite separated families. PHR’s work included arranging for DNA testing of Salvadoran families searching for their children, helping Pro-Busqueda locate adoptive parents and/or their children who had reached adulthood in the United States, and providing guidance on legal and psychosocial support.
Later, PHR partnered with Pro-Busqueda to launch an international forensics course to help identify those who disappeared during and after the civil war. The course, created in 2007, aimed to strengthen connections between Latin American human rights groups, victims’ organizations, and forensic laboratories so that they could better use scientific evidence in cases of human rights violation.
PHR’s earlier work in El Salvador also included a 1989 investigation of violations of medical neutrality that occurred during the civil war. “El Salvador: Health Care Under Siege” details the obstruction to health care experienced by civilians, as well as the assault, torture, and execution of health workers during the conflict.