23 December 2005: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) yesterday achieved a daily record of 60 DNA matches between DNA profiles of bone samples taken from remains found in grave sites across the former Yugoslavia and blood samples given by family members of the missing. The previous daily record of matches between ICMP’s victim and family member DNA databases was 54.Yesterday’s record was due in part to a large number of bone samples delivered to ICMP from grave sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bone samples were analyzed at the ICMP DNA laboratory in Sarajevo and their DNA profiles were entered into ICMP’s database in Tuzla, in eastern Bosnia, where the matches were found.
DNA experts at ICMP’s Identification Coordination Division in Tuzla hope that today will bring a new record number of matches: by noon today, 41 DNA matches had already been found. A DNA match on the ICMP system indicates the identity of a missing person with a certainty of at least 99.95 per cent.
ICMP has more than 26,500 missing persons recorded on its database of the missing for the former Yugoslavia. That database is built on the basis of family members who come forward and donate blood samples to help identify their missing relatives through DNA. Of those 26,500 missing persons, yesterday’s matches bring the total number of DNA matches found by ICMP to 8,826.
ICMP developed the system of using DNA as the primary tool of identification of large numbers of persons in order to identify the thousands of victims of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. The victims’ remains, in many cases, had been dispersed between several mass graves and were impossible to identify using conventional methods. ICMP’s unique expertise in analyzing bone samples to obtain DNA profiles and in matching victims’ and family members’ DNA profiles has led to its being asked to assist in the identification of victims of last December’s Asian tsunami.
“This record number of matches is more than just a number; to the family members of those missing persons, each match will bring an end to their uncertainty over the fate of their relatives,” said Adnan Rizvic, ICMP’s Deputy Director of Forensic Sciences. “This record also underlines to family members of the missing in the former Yugoslavia that our work on victims from other parts of the world is in no way diminishing our efforts to identify victims from here,” he added.
ICMP recently completed a campaign to collect blood samples from family members of the missing from the former Yugoslavia who are currently living in the United States. More than 1,300 blood samples were collected, and when DNA profiles of those samples are entered into its DNA database, ICMP expects large numbers of matches will also be found early in the New Year.