Sat, Jun 05, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Conflict of rights in court battle over DNA


The adopted children of Argentina’s leading newspaper publisher defended their right not to know who their biological parents are, even as they prepared themselves for the possibility that DNA evidence will show they were taken as babies from victims of the dictatorship.

In an interview on Thursday, Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera accused Argentine human rights groups and authorities of violating their privacy by forcing them to give DNA samples in a politically charged case that could put their elderly adoptive mother behind bars.

The Nobles are at the center of a nine-year legal battle over allegations that Grupo Clarin owner Ernestina Herrera de Noble illegally adopted them 34 years ago with help from officials of the military junta. Hundreds of political dissidents were kidnapped and killed after giving birth in clandestine torture centers during the 1976-1983 dictatorship, and human rights groups believe the Noble children’s birth mothers were among them.

Barring a last-minute Supreme Court ruling, the National Genetics Bank’s scientists will begin extracting DNA on Monday from underwear and other clothing the Nobles surrendered last week under a court order, following what they described as a dangerous car chase from the judge’s office to their mother’s mansion.

The DNA will then be compared to results from hundreds of samples given by families of the disappeared, in a process they fear gives them no guarantees.

“There is not a single concrete fact showing that we were taken” from the junta’s imprisoned enemies, said Marcela Noble, in an interview with her brother from their lawyer’s office.

However, if the DNA shows a match to families of the disappeared, their very existence would serve as evidence — “object proof” as they put it — of a crime that could land their mother in prison, if lawyers can then show she knowingly accepted stolen babies.

A match also would mean the adoptees have other families to consider — whether they want to have anything to do with them or not.

“If it is really true ... well, it’s up to us to assimilate it, it’s up to us to prepare ourselves and it’s up to us to see what we want to do,” Marcela Noble said. “Only we will know how we’ll feel.”

Felipe Noble was more dismissive: “Whatever the result, for me it’s just one more sheet of paper, one more fact in my desk.”

Ernestina Herrera de Noble, already a widower when the military took over Argentina, adopted both children using paperwork that rights groups have challenged in court as falsified.

The Noble children say they have no need to know more about their birth families, not after 34 years developing their own identities.

“Our identity is ours. It’s a private thing, and I don’t think it’s up to the state or the Grandmothers [of the Plaza de Mayo] to come and tell us what is ours,” Marcela said, referring to the prominent human rights group that works to identify infants stolen during the dictatorship.

“Despite this, they have tried for nine years to forcefully impose our genetic history on us,” she added.

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