ICMP Welcomes Brazil Special Commission on Missing Persons to HQ in The Hague

The Hague, 20 December 2019: Mr. Marco Vinicius Pereira de Carvalho, President of the Brazil Special Commission on Political Dead and Missing Persons met with Director-General, Kathryne Bomberger of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the Director of ICMP’s Science and Technology Program, Dr. Thomas Parsons, to review steps made in identifying missing persons from the Perus Working Group.

Over the last two years, ICMP has assisted Brazil through cooperation with the Perus Working Group, which works to identify bodies that were interred in a clandestine mass grave in the Dom Bosco Cemetery in Perus, Sao Paulo, between 1971 and 1975, during the military government rule.  Over 700 cases have been examined and tested from this complex assemblage of human remains.  ICMP helped Brazil identify two high profile cases. The identifications are symbolically significant to families of the missing as they demonstrate the present government’s commitment to use modern scientific methods to resolve these cases.

“It was very important for me, as the president of the Brazil Special Commission, to see first-hand how samples from the Perus case are processed, both in the laboratory and administratively,” said Mr.  Carvalho. “During the visit, we reiterated the Brazilian government’s resolve to carry on the project to its completion.  We also discussed strengthening our partnership to perhaps in the future also include those who disappear in present times.”

Dr. Samuel Ferreira, Scientific Coordinator at the Brazil Special Commission and Director of the Forensic DNA Research Institute at the Federal District Civil Police in Brasília, added that this visit should signal to families continuing support for the project, which now will enter a second phase where even more complex cases will be examined.

“The success rate of DNA profiles recovered from bone samples is extremely high. The identification results were realized due to the effective strategies that were jointly devised at the outset of the project, and the conduct of the forensic team in Brazil and at the ICMP, each performing its unique role to an excellent standard. We succeed because we work together and share experiences,” he said.

ICMP’s scientific partnership with the Brazilian commission represents a landmark application of the latest forensic genetics techniques to identify remains from people who disappeared decades ago, said ICMP Director of Science and Technology Thomas Parsons.

“The project is very challenging in scale and the nature of the skeletal cases now being tested after so many years,” he said.  “In addition to the already concluded symbolic, high profile identifications, the partnership also has potential to bring answers to additional cases of missing persons from this era and others in Brazil.”

The partnership between the Special Commission and ICMP is supported by the UN Development Program. The first samples were transferred to ICMP’s laboratory in September 2017, with the first identification concluded in February 2018.

ICMP is a treaty-based international organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating 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.