SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — A Bosnia-based commission that has pioneered a DNA-based system to find and identify the remains of people missing in conflicts and natural disasters will become a permanent global body helping track down millions of missing around the world, officials said Thursday.
The International Commission on Missing Persons was established in 1996 to help find people missing from the Yugoslav wars. So far it has found and identified 70 percent of the 40,000 missing people, of whom three-quarters were from Bosnia. That achievement is "unprecedented" the head of the ICMP, Kathryne Bomberger, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
She said the institution will be granted permanent international legal status this month when the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and most likely Sweden sign a treaty that will formally provide the ICMP with a permanent international legal status to work globally. The expertise developed by the ICMP and the Bosnian government will become a global model for countries with missing persons problems.
Bosnia is the only country in the world that has introduced a law on missing persons and established a Missing Persons Institute. The ICMP itself has used DNA technology to identify the remains of the victims found and exhumed by the government from some 3,000 mass graves.
To do so, it first created a database of more than 100,000 blood samples of family members of the missing and then matched those with the DNA extracted from bones of the remains. It has provided prosecutors of the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague as well as Bosnia's state court with evidence that has helped put hundreds of people behind bars for war crimes.
The ICMP DNA identification system was also used to identify victims of the Sept. 11 attack on New York, the 2004 Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Saddam Hussein regime, the conflict in Colombia, Chilean regime victims and others.