Argentine court orders DNA test of Clarin adoptees

AP News
Posted: Jun 02, 2011 6:16 PM
Argentine court orders DNA test of Clarin adoptees

A court ruled Thursday the adopted children of one of Latin America's biggest newspaper publishers must submit to DNA tests to determine if they were stolen as babies during Argentina's military dictatorship.

Lawyers for the adoptees said it was unconstitutional to order them to submit to the tests against their will. Human rights groups, meanwhile, were angered the judges limited the scope of the search and vowed to appeal that part of the ruling.

The nation's top criminal appellate court said Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera must submit "blood, saliva, skin, hair or other biological samples ... with or without their consent" for analysis in the National Genetics Databank, which has collected thousands of DNA samples from relatives of people who were killed or "disappeared" during the 1976-83 junta.

Hundreds of these families have some reason to believe a baby could have been taken from a female relative who was taken away by security forces as an enemy of the dictatorship and never seen again.

The court added a limit to the tests. It said the DNA of the Noble Herreras can be compared only against families of people known to have disappeared before the dates on their 1976 adoption papers.

Human rights activists complained that the time limit could thwart efforts to reveal the adoptees' true identities.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo said the adoption paperwork has been determined by a judge to be fraudulent, so the DNA should be compared against the entire database for all the years of the dictatorship.

The group has tried in court for more than 10 years to determine if Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera were taken from women in clandestine torture centers in the early days of the dictatorship and illegally adopted by Ernestina Herrera de Noble, who owns the Grupo Clarin media conglomerate.

The Grandmothers have succeeded in recovering the identities of 104 such adoptees so far, and believe about 400 others were stolen as babies. The illegal adoption of any person whose DNA matches the families of the junta's victims is considered a crime against humanity under Argentine law.

The two Noble Herrera adoptees, now in their 30s, have fiercely defended their adoptive mother and say they have no desire to know their birth families.

Argentina's Supreme Court ruled in 2009 against the forced extraction of blood from such adoptees, but said DNA evidence can still be obtained against their will by searching their homes for clothing and other personal objects.

In the case of the Noble Herreras, a controversial attempt to obtain DNA from their underwear last year failed to produce usable samples.