Archive for June, 2005



ICMP to Collect Blood Samples in Switzerland

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Blood collection teams from the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will be visiting Basel, Baar, Geneva, and Yverdon in Switzerland from July 1 to July 3 to collect blood samples from family members of persons missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.The blood samples are needed for DNA identification of remains found in grave sites across the former Yugoslavia. Since the year 2000, ICMP has collected over 71,180 blood samples from family members, relating to 25,721 missing individuals from the region. As DNA is used to trace genetic links with family members, samples are needed from several family members for each missing person. Of the missing persons on its database, ICMP has already found DNA matches for 7,706 individuals.

ICMP is actively collecting blood samples from family members, and as there are large numbers of refugees living in other countries, ICMP extended its outreach campaign last year to family members living outside the former Yugoslavia. This visit will be the second ICMP blood collection campaign in Switzerland.

Identification of the missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, many of whom are still being exhumed from mass graves, where remains have been separated and commingled, would have been impossible without the use of DNA. In 1999, ICMP scientists revolutionized the use of DNA methods to identify large numbers of missing persons by building complex databases of DNA profiles of family members and of bone samples from exhumed remains, and by developing software that could find blind family matches between the two databases.

An ICMP DNA matching report indicates identity with a certainty of at least 99.95 percent.

The ICMP blood collection campaign in Switzerland will be done in cooperation with local associations and cultural clubs gathering members from the former Yugoslavia. ICMP is also appealing to family members of the missing living outside the region who plan to visit the former Yugoslavia during their holidays to contact one of ICMP’s regional blood collection centers if they have not already given a blood sample. Giving a blood sample is simple, safe and painless; just four small drops of blood are required, but the sample must be given under sterile conditions.

ICMP teams will be present at the following locations in Switzerland:

Friday, July 1, 2005

Basel
10AM - 10PM Blood Collection
Location: Conference Room Tokyo
Address: Centralbahnstrasse 14, 4002 Basel
Tel +41 61 295 39 39
Tel/ Fax +41 61 295 39 89
ICMP cell phone number: +387 61 229 786

Geneva
10AM - 10PM Blood Collection
Location: Albanian University Centre
Address: Rue de Lyon 112 CP 539, Geneva
ICMP cell phone number: +387 61 485 511
Saturday, July 2, 2005

Baar
12AM - 10PM Blood Collection
Location: Bosnian Association Spreca
Address: Bosnischer Verein ruessemftr.5B, Baar
Contact Person: Ahmet Ibranovic
Tel +41 79 775 7953
Tel/ Fax+41 41 712 1037
ICMP cell phone number: +387 61 229 786

Yverdon
12PM - 10PM Blood Collection
Location: Conference Room Hotel Expo
Address: 1442 Montagny, Yverdon
Tel +41 24 447 5255
Tel/ fax +41 24 445 2385
ICMP cell phone number: +387 61 485 511
Sunday, July 3, 2005

Baar
10AM - 10PM Blood Collection
Location: Bosnian Association Spreca
Address: Bosnischer Verein ruessemftr.5B, Baar
Contact Person: Ahmet Ibranovic
Tel +41 79 775 7953
Tel/ Fax+41 41 712 1037
ICMP cell phone number: +387 61 229 786

Yverdon
10AM - 10PM Blood Collection
Location: Conference Room Hotel Expo
Address: 1442 Montagny, Yverdon
Tel +41 24 447 5255
Tel/ fax +41 24 445 2385
ICMP cell phone number: +387 61 485 511

Government of Greece to Help Equip ICMP

Friday, June 10th, 2005

The Government of Greece has once again joined the donor governments of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), making a financial contribution towards equipping the newly-established ICMP Re-association Center in Lukavac, eastern Bosnia.During the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, remains of victims buried in mass graves were often separated and “commingled” when the perpetrators of killings tried to hide evidence of their crimes by digging up the bodies and re-burying them in secondary mass graves. At the ICMP Re-association Center, skeletal remains of the missing are put back together using a combination of archaeological information, anthropological work and a method whereby a limited DNA profile is generated to allow for re-association of separated body parts. In this way, the ICMP Re-association Center is helping to ensure that more individuals are accounted for and that the process of re-association does not further delay the identification of remains and their return to their families for proper burial.

“We hope this donation will help to facilitate ICMP’s important mission to provide answers for family members and to contribute to the process of reconciliation in this country,” said Greek Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina Mihail Koukakis, as he announced his Government’s contribution to ICMP.

ICMP is an international organization funded entirely by donor governments and foundations. This financial assistance enables the work of ICMP’s forensic anthropologists and archeologists at mass grave sites, of scientists in the ICMP laboratories extracting DNA profiles from bones and family members’ blood samples for identification of the missing, and of other ICMP programs that assist family members of missing persons and local governments.

“During his time in this country, Ambassador Koukakis has been a strong supporter of ICMP, recognizing the vital role of the organization and advocating on ICMP’s behalf with the donor community,” said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff. “While the Government of Greece has tended to focus its program of assistance on large scale reconstruction and de-mining projects, this donation will be of great value in ICMP’s work at our Re-association Center,” she added.

ICMP activities are also supported by the Governments of the United States of America, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Germany, and by the European Union and the Holy See.

Identification of Srebrenica Victims Passes 2,000

Friday, June 10th, 2005

One month before the 10th anniversary of the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has completed identifications of more than 2,000 of the Srebrenica victims. There are altogether almost 7,800 persons listed on the ICMP database of the missing from Srebrenica, and, as family members continue to report missing relatives and donate blood samples for DNA identification, that number is slowly growing. Many of the missing have not yet been exhumed from mass graves that are still hidden around the country.

On Thursday morning, Dr. Rifat Kesetovic, ICMP’s Chief Forensic Pathologist and also the official court-appointed pathologist for Srebrenica cases, signed the 2,000th Srebrenica-related death certificate at the ICMP morgue in Tuzla, about 60 kilometers from Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia.

“We still have a very, very long way to go in this process,” said Dr. Kesetovic, whose staff left the ICMP facility after the death certificate was signed to inform the family of the identified victim. “We are proud to have passed this landmark, but there are still around 6,000 missing victims from Srebrenica and we are working hard to find them, to identify them and to return them to their families,” Dr. Kesetovic added.

ICMP pioneered the use of DNA as a means of identifying large numbers of missing persons, achieving its first “blind” DNA match between mortal remains found in a mass grave and family members of a missing victim, a boy from Srebrenica, in November 2001. ICMP now has databases with DNA information on thousands of missing victims and their family members. Each day, when the databases are compared using software developed by ICMP to find matches between the missing and their family members, new matches are found. Such matches, where no other information exists to identify the missing, are known as “blind” matches. An ICMP DNA matching report indicates identity with a certainty of at least 99.95 percent. Court-appointed pathologists make the final, official, identification.

Apart from the large number of victims, identification of the missing from Srebrenica is further hampered by the fact that the bodies, which were originally buried in large mass graves, were later dug up by the perpetrators in an effort to hide the evidence and re-buried in many smaller mass graves. As a result, the bodies became dissociated and commingled. ICMP is working to overcome these unique problems in identification of the missing using a combination of traditional forensic archaeology and anthropology with new DNA methods to re-associate the remains, increasing the speed of identifications.

“We created many of these methods of mass identification in the first place,” commented Mark Skinner, ICMP’s Director of Forensic Sciences, “and we are constantly working on improving our methods to speed up the process of identification, as well as investigating new ways to find the mass graves.”