Archive for ????, 2005

Memories of Genocide – Discussion and Photography Exhibition in Dubrovnik

????????, ???? 17th, 2005

An exhibition of dramatic photographs by Bosnian photographer Samir Sinanovic depicting the exhumation, identification and burial of thousands of war crimes victims in northern Bosnia launched a week-long course about war crimes and genocide for postgraduate students in the Croatian coastal town of Dubrovnik on Monday, May 16, 2005.

Students, journalists, local Croatians and some tourists drawn in by flyers promoting the event around Dubrovnik’s “old city” came to the exhibition opening.

“We must never let people forget what happened,” said course director Professor Janja Bec-Neumann at the opening. “We want our students to learn to speak out when they see evil, not just genocide, for that is only the final stage, but they must learn to recognize the very earliest stages of evil so we can help to prevent it happening again. If we forget, it would be like killing them a second time,” she said.

The photography exhibition, entitled “Remembering War Crimes in Prijedor 1992, Bosnia & Herzegovina: Exhumations, Identifications and Burials”, is the work of a local photographer who lived through the war in the Prijedor area. He said he wanted his photographs to serve as a document about what happened. “We have to tell people, to show people what really happened - otherwise, the enormity of the evil is so great, ordinary people just wouldn’t be able to comprehend it,” he said at the exhibition opening on Monday.

During the 1992 - 1995 war, an estimated 3,278 non-Serb residents of Prijedor area were killed or went missing. So far, some 1,900 individual remains have been exhumed, but hundreds of bodies are waiting to be identified. Surviving family members are still seeking the fate of more than 1,300 persons. Sinanovic’s series of photographs covers all aspects of the identification process, from exhumations through to burial. The exhibition is sponsored by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which assists in exhumations of remains of the missing and identification through the use of DNA.

ICMP’s Civil Society Initiatives Department is also taking part, for the second year in a row, in the postgraduate course, “War Crimes, Genocide and Memories,” held at the Inter University Center in Dubrovnik. ICMP wishes to raise public awareness about the missing persons issue as a critical human rights issue to be addressed in order to enable peace building and stability in the former Yugoslavia. ICMP works to empower associations of families of missing persons to be able to advocate on behalf of their members in their pursuit of truth and justice. ICMP has organized the visit three survivors of the war crimes in the Prijedor area talk about their experiences to the course participants to highlight the human impact of the course themes of war crimes and genocide.The photo exhibition will be open for public in the Lazareti gallery through 21 May, 2005, from 10 AM to 3 PM.

Interpol Visits ICMP to Discuss Disaster Victim Identification

???????, ???? 16th, 2005

A delegation of officials from Interpol, the international police organization based in Lyon, France, visited ICMP on Friday May 13, 2005, to discuss possible cooperation with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) on Disaster Victim Identification around the world. Interpol is helping to coordinate international police efforts to identify the victims of the South East Asian tsunami disaster of last December.During their one-day visit to ICMP Sarajevo Headquarters on Friday, the Interpol officials met with ICMP Directors and DNA analysis and database experts to discuss coordination between ICMP and Interpol on tsunami victim identification.

After meeting with the Interpol officials, Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Chief of Staff, emphasized that ICMP was ready to help identify victims however it could, “Although our mandate is to assist in the identification of persons missing as a result of conflict or human rights abuses,” she said, “We have the capability and the capacity to help in the identification of tsunami victims and as a humanitarian measure we are all willing to help.”

On May 5, 2005, ICMP agreed with the Government of Thailand to assist in the identification efforts of victims of the tsunami in Thailand by analyzing 750 bone samples in order to obtain DNA profiles. DNA is now virtually the only tool that will help to identify the thousands of remains of victims of the tsunami.

Through its work in helping to resolve the fate of thousands of persons missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, ICMP pioneered the use of DNA as a tool in identifying large numbers of missing persons. Whereas previously DNA had been used to confirm a presumptive identification, ICMP scientists turned around the use of DNA so that it could be used as an initial indication of identity.

In its work related to the former Yugoslavia, ICMP developed specialized complex databases of DNA profiles from bones of mortal remains exhumed from grave sites across the region and of DNA profiles from blood samples taken from family members searching for missing loved ones. ICMP matching software compares the databases to find DNA matches between the missing and family members.

ICMP was asked to assist with DNA profiling of bone samples because of its consistent success in obtaining DNA profiles from hard tissue such as bones and teeth, which are more difficult to analyze for DNA than soft tissue.

ICMP and Interpol will continue their discussion on cooperation in Lyon.

ICMP to Help Identify Tsunami Victims as a Humanitarian Measure

???????, ???? 9th, 2005

In response to the overwhelming problem of identification of victims of the December 2004 Asian tsunami, police from Thailand, the United Kingdom and Germany have asked the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) for assistance in the identification process using DNA.Thai Police, Scotland Yard and German Federal Police representatives brought 750 bone samples to ICMP’s Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, headquarters on Thursday (May 5, 2005). The bone samples will be analyzed within 60 days in ICMP’s DNA laboratories in Sarajevo and Tuzla, eastern Bosnia, to obtain DNA profiles. The joint delegation brought the bone samples to ICMP as prior testing performed by private DNA laboratories was not sufficiently successful.

Obtaining DNA profiles from hard tissue such as bone or teeth is more complicated than from soft tissue and as a result of its work in the identification of victims of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, ICMP has developed successful methods of bone DNA extraction. ICMP DNA scientists have obtained more DNA profiles from bone samples than any other laboratory in the world.

The joint delegation toured ICMP facilities to learn more about the organization’s sophisticated DNA extraction methodologies, databases and specialized software to compare large numbers of DNA profiles from bone samples and DNA profiles from the blood of living relatives. The delegation also discussed further ways in which ICMP can help to identify persons missing as a result of the tsunami.

“There are several ways we can assist in the identification of tsunami victims. Our Forensic Sciences Department has the capability to identify every body for which there are living relatives who come forward and give DNA samples for comparison,” said Andreas Kleiser, ICMP’s Deputy Chief of Staff. “Our experts are able to extract DNA profiles from bone samples, even if they are highly deteriorated.”

With its DNA expertise, ICMP has helped in resolving the fate of more than 7,000 missing persons in the former Yugoslavia. ICMP, which is funded by 14 donor governments, combines sophisticated forensic science capabilities with experience in working with family members of the missing, and it assists governments in formulating policies on missing persons issues.

ICMP’s DNA matching software was used to assist in the identification of victims of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. ICMP also recently began to work with the authorities in Iraq in addressing the missing persons issue in that country. The mandate of ICMP is to assist in the identification of persons missing as a result of conflicts or human rights abuses, but as a humanitarian measure, it has offered assistance in other situations, such as the identification of tsunami victims.