The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) passed a major milestone this week, when it recorded its 10,000th DNA match of persons missing from the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The 10,000th missing person to be identified using ICMP’s unique DNA-led system was a man missing from the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995. The ICMP DNA match report, which indicates the identity of the man with a certainty of 99.95 per cent, will be forwarded to the local court-appointed pathologist, who will conduct an official post-mortem examination and make the final, legal identification. The remains will then be returned to the missing man’s family for burial.The ICMP system of DNA-led identifications was established in response to the difficulty of locating recovering and identifying persons large numbers of missing persons in a post conflict environment. The use of a DNA-led process is the most accurate method to identify persons from conflict, crimes against humanity, as well as mass fatalities from disasters. ICMP applied the same technology in providing assistance to Thailand following the Tsunami.
ICMP receives and analyses bone samples taken from mortal remains and blood reference samples donated to ICMP by family members of the missing. The DNA profiles of the victim and the relatives of the victim are compared to make a DNA match. ICMP made its first DNA match on November 16, 2001. To date ICMP has made over 12,000 DNA matches of different individuals, of which 10,000 are from BiH.
“It is the hope of ICMP to continue its technical assistance, including the high rate of DNA identification support to BiH through at least 2010. We estimate that during this time period we would be able to make an additional 9,000 DNA matches. Our ability to meet this goal depends on several factors, including the will of BiH authorities and others to provide information on the location of conflict related gravesites; the ability of the Missing Persons Institute to carry out its operations in coordination with relevant court experts; and most importantly, continued financial support for ICMP assistance”, commented Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Director-General, when the landmark number was passed.
There are still approximately 13,000 persons missing from the conflicts in BiH and over 17,500 missing in the region. “While the work that has been carried out until today, not only by ICMP but by other institutions including local institutions and civil society organizations, has been tremendous, we are just over halfway there,” stated Ms. Bomberger. “In this regard, the issue of missing persons remains one of the biggest human rights issues facing the region today and is a source of instability if not properly resolved,” she added