At ceremonies in nine different locations across the region of Prijedor, in north-western Bosnia-Herzegovina, 305 victims of the 1992-95 conflict will be buried tomorrow, Thursday 20 July 2006. Most of them were killed during the summer of 1992 and the burial is being held on the 14th anniversary of many of the deaths. All the bodies to be buried were identified with the assistance of the International Commission on Missing Persons DNA-led identification program.More than 3,300 persons were reported as missing from the Prijedor municipality following the end of the conflict. So far, 1,449 have been identified.
The remains of the victims to be buried could not have been accurately identified without the use of DNA. ICMP’s DNA-led identification process requires obtaining DNA profiles from bone samples of exhumed mortal remains and matching them with DNA profiles of blood samples from missing persons’ relatives.
“Our thoughts are always with the families of the victims; we understand their need for closure, for truth and justice,” said Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff. “It is important for us that we are able to contribute to that process by providing technical assistance to the authorities, as well as working directly with family members of the missing.” she added.
ICMP began to establish its DNA-led method of identification in the late 1990s and the first DNA match on its system, for a 15 year-old boy from Srebrenica, was in November 2001. Since then, ICMP has obtained DNA matches for more than 10,000 missing persons in the former Yugoslavia.
The ICMP DNA-led system was a revolution in the world of forensic science. Until it was introduced, identifications were made based on so-called “traditional” techniques, looking at factors such as age, size, or gender, or from clothing or personal effects. With such large numbers of mortal remains, and with many of them deteriorated and unrecognizable, accurate identifications using traditional techniques were almost impossible.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, through its use of DNA technology to identify mortal remains, ICMP estimates that there are over 15,000 persons still unaccounted for, of which 10,000 to 12,000 have not yet been exhumed from mass graves.