ICMP to Collect Blood Samples

18 November 2005: Blood collection teams from the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will be visiting the United States from November 29 to December 14 to collect blood samples from family members of persons missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. This visit will be the first ICMP blood collection campaign in North America and will focus on twelve states.

Out of the estimated 30,000 persons who went missing during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina that ended by the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, there still are between 15,000 to 20,000 persons to be found. ICMP will also be collecting blood samples from persons with missing relatives from other parts of the region, including from persons affected by the conflict in Kosovo.

The blood samples are needed for DNA identification of remains found in grave sites across the former Yugoslavia. Since the year 2000, ICMP has collected over 75,000 blood samples from family members, relating to 26,400 missing individuals from the region. As DNA is used to trace genetic links with family members, samples are needed from several family members from each missing person. Of the missing persons on its database, ICMP has already found DNA matches for 8,570 individuals.

ICMP is actively collecting blood samples from family members, and as there are large numbers of refugees living in other countries, ICMP extended its outreach campaign last year to family members living outside the former Yugoslavia.

Identification of the missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, many of whom are still being exhumed from mass graves where remains have been separated and commingled, would have been impossible without the use of DNA. In 1999, ICMP scientists revolutionized the use of DNA methods to identify large numbers of missing persons by building complex databases of DNA profiles of family members and of bone samples from exhumed remains, and by developing software that could find family matches between the two databases.

The ICMP blood collection campaign will include the following cities: Syracuse, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; Erie, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Des Moines, Iowa; Chicago, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Bowling Green, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri and Dallas, Texas.

Giving a blood sample is simple, safe and painless; just four small drops of blood are required, but the sample must be given under sterile conditions.

Please find attached the list of locations the ICMP blood collection teams will visit and a document containing background information.