DNA specialists from the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) have started to analyze blood samples collected during a joint campaign with the Government of Croatia to help identify missing persons from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. In a campaign that covered 18 cities across Croatia during the last two weekends of November 2004, teams from ICMP and the Croatian Ministry of the Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity collected 754 new blood samples from family members of missing persons. DNA profiles are now being generated from the blood samples of family members, which will later be compared to DNA profiles taken from mortal remains that have been found in grave sites across the former Yugoslavia.During the campaign, 118 new missing persons cases were opened, as family members of persons who had not previously been listed on ICMP’s missing persons database came forward to give blood samples. “We had an excellent response to the blood collection campaign,” said Mr. Adnan Rizvic, Deputy Director of ICMP’s Forensic Sciences Department, “We were asking family members who had not already given blood samples to come forward so that we can put new family member DNA profiles into our database. We expect to get the first matches with bone samples of missing persons by early next year,” he added.
The blood collection campaign is part of a Joint Project on DNA-led Identifications agreed in November between ICMP and the Croatian Government with the aim of speeding up identification of the missing. As well as the blood collection campaign to generate new family member DNA profiles, ICMP and the Croatian Government have agreed to exchange DNA data so that matches can be found between all the blood samples that have been collected and all the bone samples that have been found. This means that wherever in the region a blood sample has been taken, the coded DNA profiles of those blood samples will be compared to the DNA profiles of bone samples found on the territory of Croatia, in an effort to make identifications.
All DNA information exchanged is coded and anonymous until matches are found and family members contacted. No uncoded DNA information is ever exchanged without the written consent of family members.