Colonel Palic

5 August 2009: ICMP extends its condolences to Mrs. Esma Palic and to the relatives and many friends of Colonel Avdo Palic who have suffered for so long as a consequence of not knowing his fate and whereabouts. We also continue to extend our support to all those who are searching for persons missing from the armed conflicts of the 1990’s in the regions of the former Yugoslavia.

Considering the many requests that ICMP has received for more information and with the consent of Mrs. Palic we would like to provide the following review of the case history.

In November 2001, just when the ICMP DNA Laboratory system went on line, ICMP received thousands of samples from around the country for testing. The court-appointed forensic pathologist from Sarajevo gave ICMP a full freezer containing hundreds of bone samples that had been collected between 1996 and 2001 from various sites in his jurisdiction. Amongst those was a bone sample with case number 9100507 taken from mortal remains exhumed at a site in Vragolovi. In June of 2002, ICMP attempted a DNA extraction from this sample. However, the tests performed at that time did not produce a profile that could be matched to any family reference on ICMP’s databases. ICMP has made almost 15,000 conclusive DNA matches of different individuals relevant to the conflicts in the Western Balkans. Nevertheless, it is not a rare event that some DNA profiles remain on ICMP’s databases without yielding a match.

There are many reasons why a sample may not result in a DNA match. The most common technical reason is that the number of family reference profiles on ICMP databases is insufficient in a given case. Another common technical reason is that a sample fails to yield enough genetic information. However, DNA typing and matching systems have continuously improved over the years. The improved systems sometimes permit obtaining DNA profiles where that was not possible previously. ICMP therefore regularly reviews samples that remain on the database, but do not yield a match.

In November 2008, ICMP instituted a full technical review of all unmatched DNA profiles that had been generated in the period 2001-2004. The DNA profiles that had not been matched were carefully examined in the light of current standards. This technically demanding process necessarily took some time but as a result of this review, samples were identified as potentially benefitting from re-extraction of DNA using improved extraction methods. Among these was the sample 9100507 from the Vragolovi site. The new DNA extraction was completed in July 2009, and a full and accurate DNA profile was obtained from the sample. Upon comparison with family reference profiles, a match was found identifying the sample as belonging to Col. Avdo Palic.

ICMP is always responsive to any information that could aid in the identification of individuals. However, no information was ever provided to ICMP suggesting that the Vragolovi site might be associated with Colonel Palic. Consequently, it was not until ICMP performed its technical review in 2008-2009 that the case could be closed.

ICMP would like to underline, that without the use of state-of-the-art DNA identification methods, Colonel Palic would not have been identified. ICMP continues to review all cases using newer and more refined techniques as they become available.

ICMP operates a high throughput DNA identification laboratory system that is dedicated to assisting governments with cases of persons missing from armed conflict, crimes against humanity, violations of human rights, as well as disaster victim identification following natural or manmade disasters. Since ICMP’s DNA laboratory system went on-line in November 2001, almost 15,000 DNA matches of different individuals have been made of persons missing from the conflicts in the Western Balkans, of which over 12,000 are relevant to Bosnia and Herzegovina. ICMP has also provided assistance to Thailand following the Tsunami, the United States following Hurricane Katrina, the Philippines following Typhoon Frank, the Government of Chile concerning cases of missing persons from the regime of Pinochet, while ICMP currently operates programs in Colombia and Iraq.