Mexican Scientists work on challenging missing persons cases in collaboration with ICMP 

The Hague, 20 March 2020: Three Mexican Forensic experts from the state of Nuevo Leon, working together with scientists from the International Commission on Missing Persons at the ICMP laboratory in The Hague, Netherlands, have successfully obtained DNA results from challenging post-mortem samples of missing persons.  The results were obtained as part of a scientific exchange during which the Mexican experts also strengthened their skills in DNA extraction and genetic testing methods.

The experts from the Institute of Criminalistics and Expert Services, of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the State of Nuevo Leon, explored novel methods to extract and analyze DNA from highly deteriorated skeletal remains during their 9-17 March visit to the ICMP headquarters, which includes a state-of-the-art, high-throughput DNA laboratory. The exchange, organized through the ICMP’s Wim Kok Center for Excellence and Learning, is part of a USAID-funded project the ICMP is implementing with the civil society organization Citizens in Support of Human Rights (CADHAC).  The visit had been planned to last three weeks, but ended early due to the Covid-19 emergency situation.

As part of the program, ICMP supported the Mexican experts in using advanced technology to successfully obtain DNA profiles from highly deteriorated bone samples from Mexico. The results of this pilot study showed results that could pave the way for an increase in the number of successful identifications achieved by Mexican authorities.

“This scientific exchange gave us a new perspective on DNA data management and analysis. I am confident that we will be able to implement these new methods and procedures in Mexico, in line with the commitment of the Prosecutor General of Nuevo Leon towards the families of the missing persons,” said forensic expert Miranda Fabiola Cordova Mercado, who took part in the exchange together with her colleagues, Yuridia Lisseth Gonzalez Lopez and Victor Hugo Pichardo Pacheco.

The exchange is part of a four-year program implemented by ICMP and CADHAC to support Nuevo Leon’s efforts to develop new approaches to account for the estimated 3,000 persons reported missing in the state and to secure the rights of the families of the missing. ICMP assistance to Nuevo Leon also includes support for the creation of a centralized and secure data systems capability that will enhance domestic efforts to find missing persons.

Topics addressed during the exchange included quality management systems and the use of new technologies, such as Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS) methods for the extraction and analysis of DNA from a large number of bone samples, many of which are highly deteriorated.

“This program supports Mexico’s efforts to provide truth and justice to the many families who are missing their loved ones, which contribute to strengthen public trust and the rule of law,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger.

Mexico’s ambassador to the Netherlands, José Antonio Zabalgoitia Trejo, took part in a ceremony that closed the exchange program.

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.

As part of its unique programs, ICMP maintains a state of the art, high throughput human identification laboratory system.  The lab helps countries around the world to identify missing persons. ICMP also provides a unique learning and development program that is designed for experts and non-experts, including civil society and families of the missing, through its Wim Kok Center of Excellence and Learning.