21 November 2019
Posteado en : Interview
We interview Jesús Agudo Ordóñez, leader of the Twinning project “Forensic training towards advanced examination methods in Turkey” and expert adviser with the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Science, who talks to us about forensic science and what it contributes to this project being carried out in Turkey.
What is the main objective of this Twinning project?
The objective is to strengthen and improve the methods used in forensic laboratories in Turkey. To do this, arrangements have been made for Spanish forensic science specialists to collaborate with their Turkish colleagues.
The Spanish forensic science specialists basically come from three sources: firstly, the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences, occasionally joined by medical examiners from legal medicine institutes; secondly, the Criminology Laboratory of the Civil Guard, and lastly the Forensic Science Laboratory of the National Police.
They’re all forensic science laboratories, one of them being civil, which is our laboratory belonging to the Ministry of Justice, and the other two, the National Police and Civil Guard laboratories, coming under the Ministry of the Interior.
What do you think this project can bring to Turkey?
This project will help Turkey above all to standardise the methods used in investigations in forensic laboratories. It’s true that Turkish forensic laboratory technicians have a very high level, probably comparable with most European countries. Perhaps the most important added value that Spanish experts can provide is precisely — and this is one of the aims of the project — that of making the techniques used in Turkish laboratories uniform and standardised and ensuring they are certified.
What activities will be carried out to achieve these objectives?
Forty activities are planned over two years. Practically every week there is some activity and some form of travel by the technicians of the institute or the laboratory of the Police or the Civil Guard. These technicians usually travel in pairs and we organise seminars and training cycles in Turkey, attended by Turkish technicians from the same field as the Spaniards sent there.
At the National Institute of Toxicology we’re dedicated to forensic science from, shall we say, a human perspective. We don’t have engineers here, but all the specialists here are experts, graduates or postgraduates in biomedical sciences. Therefore, our activity is focused on the study of crime in general, including those crimes that have occurred and their effects at an organic level, at the level of tissues, in short at the level of people.
The National Police and the Civil Guard also work in this field, but perhaps what makes them different from us is that they provide training on other, more police-specific sciences such as ballistics, sound and image engineering, voice recording and digital recording of crimes that don’t so much affect the person, the body or the human, but tend to be more technological, more “cyber”-related. So, there are training plans for all these areas.
How does having specialised forensic experts help countries?
Forensic science helps guarantee and improve the quality of police investigations for crime prevention and prosecution. Police sciences are fundamental; they are the backbone of society to maintain order and justice. Specifically, the National Institute of Toxicology belongs to the Ministry of Justice, and for a society to have the existence of order and justice at its core is fundamental for the development of interpersonal relationships and of all kinds of professional and business initiatives.
Therefore ultimately what we’re talking about is ensuring countries’ prosperity and wealth and making sure their citizens feel safe in their dealings with one another and in initiating projects with economic impact that contribute to the enrichment and growth of their country.
What added value does FIIAPP bring to the project?
FIIAPP is a structural element of this cooperation, without whose involvement it would be very difficult to carry out this type of project. Ultimately what the people who take part in these projects contribute, both the beneficiaries, Turkey in this case, and the collaborators, Spain, is scientific know-how, in this case forensic science know-how. But it’s essential to have a body to perform organised administrative and economic tasks. So FIIAPP is the necessary body, the cement needed to make the project cohere. Without FIIAPP, projects would not have much future or make much sense.
Do you think international cooperation is important for receiving knowledge and contributing it to other countries?
For the peripheral countries of Europe, for countries that have applied for EU membership, for other countries that may not yet be eligible to apply or haven’t applied but are in its orbit, I think it’s very important because it’s about propagating the way of doing things we have in Europe.
It’s a way that’s widely recognised in the field of forensic science and that is compared internationally with other areas of influence such as the US and Asia, and it’s important that countries close to Europe or looking to be part of it in the future start adopting these kinds of methods, getting used to working with quality criteria, standardisation of methods so that when the day comes for closer approximation or full membership, everything will be that much easier and the people working in those countries will have learnt how to work in the European context.
Constant communication between the institutions of the member country, Spain, and the beneficiary country, Turkey, is important, with FIIAPP as a coordinator. It’s also important not to lose touch with the European Commission which is driving and funding this project. It would also be a good idea to maintain, as we have done on occasion, a close relationship with them to help solve those little things that may be small obstacles and try to improve day-to-day operation of the projects.
05 September 2019
Posteado en : Interview
"The Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so."
Araceli Vázquez, Twinning project coordinator ‘on advanced methods in forensic laboratories‘ in Turkey, tells us what her adaptation to this country has been like and what she makes of her personal and professional experiences there.
How long have you been in Turkey? How have you adapted to this country?
I’ve been here for 3 months, I joined right at the beginning of Easter, since, being a Muslim country, for them it was not a holiday. My adaptation to the country has been very good, although the initial stage is always “cumbersome” because we have to deal with a lot of red tape and Turkey has a complex bureaucratic system.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The first month and a half of being without my children, who we waited for to finish the school year in Spain before joining me on this adventure, was hard The little one is 2 and a half years old and the truth is that it was hard for me to be away from him. Now that we are all here, we’ve passed the test! Likewise, it is not easy to adapt to living with a language barrier, not many people speak English and sometimes it is difficult to make yourself understood, but where there’s a will, and the desire, there’s a way forward.
On the other hand, it has not been difficult getting to grips with the country, the Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so. They love football and they know our teams better than me. Also, the group of Spaniards here, the embassy staff and other RTAs make us feel at home right from the start. Turkish food is excellent, which is a bit of a warning for me because on the previous Twinning project the RTA returned to their country 12 kilos the heavier.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain? If not, is this one proving to be very different to your previous missions?
A few years ago, I spent two years living in Los Angeles, as a post-doctoral student at UCLA. It was a wonderful time and for this reason I wanted to return to the life of an expat. They are different experiences because they also represent two very different stages in life. In the United States I was living as a student, however, I now have much more responsibility at work and also two children, which means that I cannot drop my guard at any time.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
In Spain, I work as a physician at the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences. My job is to study the samples collected by forensic doctors and police in the laboratory and prepare an expert report with the result. Here, however, above all I have to manage the project, negotiate the curriculum, contact the experts and provide support in the training sessions that are carried out with relocated experts. It is a completely different but equally interesting and enriching routine.
As in all jobs, some days are better than others and sometimes you have to deal with the frustration that things don’t go as you’d like, but this in turn creates new challenges and also makes it motivating.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Turkey?
The FIIAPP team in Madrid is my lifesaver. Having no previous experience in this type of projects, it is essential to have the support of people who have a good knowledge of how the different administrations involved work. I have a pretty much daily relationship with the FIIAPP project technician, we are continually sending each other emails, papers and we talk on the phone. It is teamwork, even from far away.
In Turkey, I have two partners who help me with translations and management. In addition, the RTA counterpart and Project Leader are military officials of the Turkish administration and it is a real pleasure to work with them. They are very disciplined and work hard and want to make the project a success.
How would you assess your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate?
It is a great opportunity being able to participate in this project. Both professionally and personally, I am finding it very beneficial. Forensic laboratories have many different branches and the project covers many other fields that complement each other, which makes it very interesting because experts join us from all specialities. From a personal point of view, it is a very enriching experience as a woman who is, in civil and cultural terms, Christian. It was quite a challenge coming to work at a Turkish military base. However, I can only be grateful for this opportunity which is turning out to be very positive.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Very soon after I arrived in Turkey, Ramadan began. In the middle of the night I was woken up by someone who was making an outrageous noise drumming along the street with the obvious intention of waking up the whole neighbourhood. The following night again there was that racket in the middle of the night and I thought about calling the police. In the morning, I mentioned it at work and they explained that it is a tradition typical of Ramadan. A person walks around with a drum, waking up people to warn them to eat and drink before the sun rises, when fasting begins again. Lucky I didn’t call the police and asked beforehand.