Ukrainian Forensic Experts Conduct Study Visit at ICMP 

The Hague, 2 June 2023: Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has resulted in tens of thousands of missing and disappeared persons and the numbers continue to rise by the day. Circumstances in which people go missing include forcible deportations, summary executions, incommunicado detention, kidnapping, and family separation, including unlawful adoptions and trafficking in human beings.

Experts from laboratories in the Ukrainian ministries of Health and Justice and representatives from the Bokarius Forensic Science Institute and the Lviv Forensics Experts Bureau, today completed a five-day working visit to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Headquarters in The Hague; a visit supported by the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (EU FPI). The experts received a series of briefings on the stages of an effective DNA-led process to account for large numbers of missing persons.

In ICMP’s DNA laboratory, the Ukrainian experts were able to see at first hand accredited DNA profiling of post-mortem samples from unidentified human remains and observe the process through which the resulting DNA profiles are compared using ICMP’s integrated Data Management System (iDMS). The visit also provided insights on ICMP’s quality management systems and its approach to quality assurance and validation, in line with international standard ISO 17025.

“We exchanged experience on how our research is carried out, the laboratories and the capacities that we have, and the institutions that are responsible for these examinations,” said Igor Rozovyk, Head of the Main Bureau of Legal Medical Expertise of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. “In our country, these are not only expert institutions of the Ministry of Health, but also the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We also discussed legal developments.” 

Natalia Tkachenko, Head of the Ministry of Justice Department of Expert Provision of Justice, said that during the visit, the experts “had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the work of a modern European DNA research laboratory. In addition to technological processes, colleagues shared with us algorithms for ensuring the quality of this research in accordance with international standards. This is an important requirement and ensures that all research and all the results of research will become proper evidence in international courts.”  

“We are delighted that experts from both Lviv and Kharkiv forensic laboratories have been able to join us here in the Hague,” said the Head of ICMP’s DNA lab, Lucy Johnson. “The opportunity to share ICMP’s tried and tested ways of working and discuss technical details and workflow in person has been invaluable to both parties in supporting the development of Ukraine’s DNA-led missing persons investigative processes.” 

ICMP’s DNA laboratories, located at its Headquarters in The Hague, have highly developed capacity for DNA recovery and profiling of unidentified human remains. ICMP has conducted the world’s largest missing persons DNA testing program, having successfully tested more than 80,000 post-mortem samples and more than 150,000 family reference samples to support the identification of more than 20,000 missing persons.

At the invitation of the Government of Ukraine, ICMP is helping the authorities to develop a sustainable missing persons capability based on the rule of law. This includes providing access to high-volume, DNA-led identification capabilities that ensure that evidence collected, including evidence from mass and clandestine graves, is admissible in criminal trials. ICMP is also supporting the development of laboratory operations, data collection and mass grave investigations, providing Ukrainian institutions (including the police) and public with access to secure and large-scale missing persons data processing, and ensuring participation of civil society and families in the missing persons process.

This visit was supported by EU FPI as part of an 18-month project that began on 1 April 2022.


ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration, and other causes, and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.

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