Posts Categorized: News

DNA Past and Present

DNA past and future_historical

Kevin Sullivan considers how DNA identifications of high profile figures from the distant past may shed light on the potential for mass identification today

In 2012, archaeologists exhumed a human skeleton from a mediaeval grave that had been covered over by a municipal carpark in the English city of Leicester. DNA extracted from the skeleton was compared with DNA from a blood sample provided by a living descendant of King Richard III’s elder sister, Anne of York. This resulted in a perfect match, indicating that the skeleton belonged to Richard, the last Plantagenet King of England.

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, which (as every schoolchild once learned) was the dramatic event that “ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the Modern Era”. History has not been kind to the vanquished monarch. He was blamed…

Mexico’s Missing – One Year On


Bojana Djokanovic examines structural elements in Mexico’s missing persons pandemic

On 26 September 2015, exactly one year after 43 teacher trainees were abducted in the city of Iguala, in Mexico’s Guerrero state, families of the missing students staged demonstrations in Mexico City and elsewhere. The abduction and presumed murder of the students galvanized public opinion throughout Mexico and attracted worldwide media attention. Only two of the disappeared students are reported to have been identified (and only one of these identifications was definitive), while the location and…

ICMP Establishes Headquarters in The Hague

The Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Bert Koenders, and the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Kathryne Bomberger, signed an Agreement in The Hague today establishing ICMP’s international headquarters in the Netherlands. The organization will be based in the City of The Hague.

The Host State Agreement with ICMP provides a strong basis for ICMP to enhance its cooperation with governments and others to address the global problem of missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters and other causes. In addition, ICMP’s new headquarters will allow it to work more closely with international courts to better secure the rights of survivors to truth and justice.

“The current migration crisis reminds us again of the importance of the work of ICMP,” Minister Koenders said at the signing ceremony. “Among the millions of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict or persecution, thousands go missing and among them…

Minister Reaffirms Commitment to Accounting for the Missing


BiH Minister for Human Rights and Refugees Semiha Borovac visited ICMP’s offices in Sarajevo and Tuzla on 23 September, including the Identification and Coordination Division (ICD) as well as the facilities of the Podrinje Identification Project (PIP). Minister Borovac was the first BiH Minister for Refugees to visit these facilities, dedicated to identification of missing persons in BiH and crucial to the process of addressing the issue of missing persons from the conflicts of the 199Os.

ICMP has worked closely with the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to account for the over 30,000 people who were reported missing at the end of the war. Until now around 23,000 individuals – more than 70 percent of the total – have been identified. Almost 15,000 have been identified using DNA.

Minister Borovac said she wanted to see the ICD and PIP at first hand because…

ICMP Welcomes “Important Opportunity” to Account for Missing Persons in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

18 September 2015: ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger has welcomed this week’s announcement by the Sri Lankan government that it will establish “independent, credible and empowered mechanisms for truth seeking, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence” in regard to war crimes, including enforced disappearances, perpetrated during the conflict that ended in 2009.

Among other things, the government proposes to establish a Commission for Truth, an Office on Missing Persons, and an Office for Reparations.

On Wednesday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for “a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” to examine crimes committed during the conflict in Sri Lanka.

“There is now an important opportunity for all stakeholders in Sri Lanka, together with constructive assistance from international partners, to address the issue of those who went  missing during the conflict,” Ms. Bomberger said. “The fact…

Contribution to Addressing the Migration Crisis

Migrants are seen in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship San Marco off the coast to the south of the Italian island of Sicily

17 September 2015: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on 11 September that more than 430,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean in 2015. The number will rise to half a million within weeks if the trend continues – and it shows every sign of continuing.  The number for 2015 is already more than double the figure for the whole of 2014.

Of the 432,761 people recorded by IOM crossing the Mediterranean, at least 2,748 have drowned. And these numbers do not tell the whole story. There are credible reports of large numbers of African migrants dying in the Sahara before they even reach the Mediterranean coast.

The picture of three-year old Alan Kurdi from…

ICMP Director Wins Prestigious International Science Award

10 September 2015: The Director of ICMP’s Forensic Science Department, Dr Thomas Parsons, has been awarded the 2015 Scientific Prize by the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG). Dr Parsons is only the tenth person since 1987 to receive the award for outstanding scientific work in the field of forensic genetics, which is presented at two-year intervals but only when it is deemed that there is a recipient who merits the accolade.

Dr Parsons was honored for his signal contribution to genetic science, including his formulation of “the most efficient protocols and interpretation guidelines” for analyzing mitochondrial DNA and maximizing yields when extracting DNA from old and/or degraded bone samples – two of the key elements in human remains identification. The Prize cites Dr. Parsons’ “work in human mitochondrial DNA analysis and the identification of victims of war and disaster.”

Presenting the award at the ISFG’s biennial Congress in Krakow, Poland,…

Disappearances in Canada – Criminal Acts or a Deeper Societal Issue?

The issue of disappearances and murders of First Nation women in Canada has been gaining an increasing amount of media attention. The exact number of missing and murdered aboriginal women is not known. Some media investigations have suggested that over the past 30 years more than 1,200 women have gone missing in Canada. The RCMP states that the violence is often perpetrated by members…

Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan

The News on Sunday, a weekly magazine in Pakistan, reported on 2 August that the country’s Human Rights Commission had condemned the killing of a man in the southern province of Sindh who had been arrested by uniformed security forces. The headline of the piece was “Sindh: A new Balochistan?” and the article cited the incident as possible evidence of a wave of enforced disappearances throughout the country. Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province, though it has a population of just under 10 million. Since 2003, a nationalist movement has sustained a drive for independence, reviving historical claims that enjoy considerable support. The central government has responded in a manner that has generally been described as heavy-handed. Sindh, which borders Balochistan, is Pakistan’s most populous province; its largest city, Karachi, is the commercial capital of the country. The prospect of Sindh following Balochistan in terms of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial…

21st Sarajevo Film Festival Addresses the Issue of Missing Persons

Source: SFF

The 2015 Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF) gave special attention to the issue of missing persons, with several documentary and feature films covering the subject. Four documentaries focused on Srebrenica: “The Sigh of Life, Srebrenica”, “Adil”, “The Mist of Srebrenica” and “The Voices of Srebrenica”. All four films tell stories of survivors of genocide and pose questions about life, war and forgiveness, as well as considering human hardship and the burden of loss.

A documentary film “Remember me”, produced by the Izvor Association from Prijedor, was also shown during the 21st SFF. This film tells the story of two girls who were small children at the time of their fathers’ internment and disappearance.

“15-minute Massacre in Dvor” was shown as part of the “1995 – 2015 Dealing with the Past” program at the festival. The film tells the story of the massacre of nine people with disabilities in Dvor, Croatia, at the…