"In April and Mai 2008, an Inforce team consisting of Ambika Flavel and Roland Wessling flew to Colombia for a series of lectures and workshops. While the main focus was on events in Bogota, a short visit to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coastline. The project took place in cooperation with the Colombian NGO AFFIC.
Central to the project was Inforce's expertise in capacity building in the field of forensic mass fatality investigation through the use of simulation exercises. This was immediately put to good use in the form of two mass graves containing numerous disarticulated plastic skeletons together with artefacts, ballistic evidence and personal effects. The 'bodies' were all arranged according to real, local mass grave excavation data and in a way, that, to a certain degree, tells the story of their death and burial.
After the completion of the graves and some more preparation for the subsequent mortuary workshop, Ambika and Roland began a busy series of lectures regarding various topics around forensic archaeology and anthropology. While Ambika could deliver all her lectures in fluent Spanish, due to her time working with the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team, Roland's lectures all had to be translated. The audiences at the different venues ranged from students to maw enforcement officers.
The Mass Grave Excavation and Mass Fatality Incident Mortuary Workshops saw students, professionals, police officers and scientists from various countries apart from Colombia, such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Argentina. One of the specific issues addressed during both workshops was that of how too uphold the highest forensic investigation standards with limited budgets. This approach requires not only detailed knowledge of numerous scientific laws and principals but also a good deal of imagination and quick thinking. A dizen large photographic scales can very easily and quickly be made out of a bundle of broomsticks for the price of a permanent marker pen and a single dollar.
The excavation was immediately followed by the simulated mass fatality mortuary phase. A disused university assembly outbuilding made the perfect venue, since it offered much, clear space with adequate light, power supply and drainage. The participants had to organise themselves into the different groups, had to setup the mortuary according to efficient workflow as well as health and safety standards. They then run a number of 'victims' through the system and finished with an identification commission.
Both of these workshops were very well received and both the participants as well as the two Inforce representatives managed learn much from each other. Further lectures and of course the visit to Santa Marta followed before the team returned to the UK. This was the first time that Inforce attempted to bringing the large-scale simulation workshop expertise to another country and it has proven most successful. Inforce hopes this will be the first of many such projects."