ICMP Laboratory in The Hague Delivers BIH Identifications Using New Technology

Sarajevo, 27 February 2019: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has submitted three new DNA match reports to the BIH Missing Persons Institute (MPI) using technology that is now being developed at ICMP’s laboratory in The Hague. The matches – which mean that three previously unidentified sets of human remains have been identified – were made possible by the hugely increased analytical power of next generation DNA technologies, known as Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS).

“ICMP’s use of MPS offers new hope for families who are still waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones,” the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, Matthew Holliday, said today. He said the number of new identifications enabled by MPS will be relatively small at first, but that it nonetheless represents a significant step forward. “The new technology can achieve results in highly challenging cases, where current technologies have failed and it also enables identifications to be made between more distant relatives.”

Member of the MPI Board of Directors Amor Masovic said the MPI “is pleased to see that the new scientific method of DNA-led identifications of missing persons has yielded first results. The new method enables identification of missing persons using reference samples of distant relatives, which is particularly important in cases of missing persons who do not have close relatives. It enables us to resolve cases that could never be resolved using the previous methods of DNA identifications.”

Matthew Holliday highlighted the fact that ICMP continues to support Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the Council of Ministers, the MPI, the prosecutors’ offices, and the associations of families of the missing in their efforts to account for missing persons from the 1990s conflicts. While more than 23,000 have been accounted for, around 7,000 are still missing, and the effort to account for the missing must be maintained, “which is why ICMP’s use of new technologies is critical to assisting BiH.”

Matthew Holliday also noted that all DNA identifications carried out by ICMP are undertaken at no cost to Bosnia and Herzegovina. ICMP is funded through voluntary donations and ICMP will continue to make every effort to raise funds for activities in the region.

In addition to providing technical support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, ICMP helped to develop the Law on Missing Persons and assisted the authorities in setting up the MPI. Matthew Holliday expressed the hope that the BIH authorities will implement the Law fully, which includes establishing the Fund for Families of the Missing. He said the work of the MPI, the prosecutors’ offices and others is essential in order to secure the rights of all families of the missing, regardless of ethnic, religious or national origin to truth, justice and reparations.

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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 and identifying 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.