Second Anniversary of the First In-Country DNA Assisted Identification

Article posted on November 16, 2003

Today marks the second anniversary of the first DNA- assisted identification in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was made on 16th November 2001 by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). ICMP is the first organization to successfully apply a population-based, DNA-led identification process in a post-conflict environment. The use of DNA assisted identifications not only increases the speed and accuracy of identifications, but also allows identifications to be made for post-conflict cases where this may not have otherwise been possible.

It is estimated that following the conflicts in the regions of former Yugoslavia, a total of approximately 40,000 persons were missing, 30,000 of them as a consequence of the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and that of that number approximately 8,000 were men and boys missing from the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995. Since 1996, numerous mass graves have been discovered and exhumed in BiH, indicating that the vast majority of those missing were killed and buried in a variety of concealed gravesites around the country. The task of identifying victims from mass graves, particularly those in which bodies were removed from one location to another, creating secondary and sometimes tertiary mass gravesites, would not be possible without DNA.

It is ICMP’s hope that by assisting BiH in coming forward with information relevant to the location of illicit gravesites, conducting exhumations and making scientifically accurate identifications, not only will thousands of families achieve closure regarding the fate of a missing loved one, but the larger society in BiH will be in a better position to truthfully assess the events of the conflicts and to move forward.
To date 15532 blood samples and 5884 bone samples have been collected relating to the fall of Srebrenica, and 2628 reports have been generated, representing 2088 individuals. In the region as a whole ICMP have collected 50751 blood samples and 13,772 bone samples. A total of 5,469 DNA reports have been generated representing 4,163 individuals.

ICMP hope that more families will come forward to give blood samples for DNA profiling, as the number so far collected is only about half the estimated number needed.