Archive for February, 2003



US Families Respond to ICMP Visit

Thursday, February 27th, 2003

163 people from Bosnia and Hercegovina now living in Chicago and St Louis gave blood samples last week, hoping to find their missing loved ones.The International Commission on Missing Persons’ mission to Chicago, which was primarily to attend the convention of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences was a great success. The 17 presentations made by its scientists and managers has put the ICMP firmly among world leaders in both traditional forensic techniques and DNA analysis. According to Ed Huffine, Director of the DNA programme:

” We were asked if we would share the DNA testing procedures that we have developed and we will. The international forensic community is now aware of ICMP’s staff, accomplishments and standards.”

But the trip achieved much more. Bosnian and Hercegovinan communities took advantage of the ICMP presence to ask if their members could donate blood samples to be added to the DNA database. Every evening there was a line of families waiting to tell their stories and give a sample. People from Srebrenica, Prijedor, Vlasenica and other towns and villages came from all around the Chicago area, and beyond, with two families travelling over eight hours each way through appalling weather to come from Canada. When the ICMP team heard that a busload of people planned to travel from St Louis in order to take part, they agreed to extend their trip by one day in order to go to this mid-West city, now home to over 40,000 people from former Yugoslavia. This special visit resulted in 56 blood samples and a ray of hope for families.

This was the first time that ICMP have taken blood samples outside the Balkan region, and they hope to do more in the future, taking in the European Union, the USA, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and Norway. Gordon Bacon, ICMP Chief of Staff, had this to say:

“We are very grateful to those community leaders and media, both in America and BiH, who helped us in this pilot project. We now know the need is there. We hope that in future funds will permit us to extend our activities to include families who have left the region but who want to know what happened to their loved ones.”

ICMP have also set up contacts with local doctors and the American Red Cross who will offer a future facility for blood sample donations in their local communities.

Chicago’s Balkan Population Invited to Take Part in Missing Persons Program

Wednesday, February 12th, 2003

Staff members of the International Commission on Missing Persons for the former Yugoslavia (ICMP) will be in Chicago for a week from Saturday 15th February, to take part in the annual Convention of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). The ICMP team members will be presenting 18 papers at the Convention, considerably more than any one organisation has ever presented in the past - 7 being the previous best.Chicago is now home to around 50,000 people whose families originated in the former Yugoslavia, many of whom have loved ones missing after the recent Balkan conflicts. ICMP will give these families the opportunity to take part in their advanced DNA analysis program, which is now identifying up to 250 people per month. This program matches DNA samples taken from recovered mortal remains with those from blood samples donated by family members of the missing. To date, over 1600 people have been identified in this way, allowing their remains to be returned to their families for dignified burial at last.

Despite publicity in the Balkan region, ICMP currently has over 3,700 DNA profiles from recovered remains, for which there is no match from living family members. The family meetings in the Chicago area are the first attempts to reach families now living overseas, in the hope that blood collections will result in more identifications. ICMP hopes that parents, children and siblings of the missing will come to their meetings, as the closer the relationship the easier it is to find a match. People should also bring as much information as they can about their loved one, such as age, height and physical appearance, also details of last known sightings and clothing worn.

Gordon Bacon, Chief of Staff of ICMP, who will be leading the team in Chicago, said, “We realize how distressful this process can be for families. However we hope that we can bring some kind of resolution by offering the chance to say goodbye, and the dignity of a burial with a named grave where people can mourn properly. For families there is nothing worse than not knowing where their loved ones are”.

Following the week in Chicago the team will move on to St Louis for a short pilot program there. Other visits may follow, to other US cities where there is a large population originating in the Balkans.