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Developing standards in international forensic work to identify missing persons

31-12-2002 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 848, by Stephen Cordner, Helen McKelvie

This article examines the need to develop standards in international forensic work to identify missing persons as well as provide evidence of international crimes. It is argued that a systematised method of selection of forensic scientists based on credentials and competence be established, as well as agreed international principles and technical standards to govern the work of forensic specialists operating in an international context.

   

Stephen Cordner and Helen McKelvie,
Stephen Cordner is Professor of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia and Director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Melbourne, Australia. Helen McKelvie is Manager, Medico-Legal Policy and Programs, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. 
   
Abstract 
 The humanitarian importance of identifying deceased persons is obvious. Most countries have systems in place to achiev e this. In situations of societal dislocation, often in the wake of war, insurrection, and gross abuses of human rights, families are desperate to know the fate of their loved ones. The developing international criminal justice system often does not need to know the identity of those deceased to establish the fact of a crime and the guilt of an accused person. In addition, those who undertake the examination may not be selected by reference to any credentials or evaluation of their competence. There is relatively little in the way of accepted international values and technical standards governing the work of forensic specialists operating in an international context. This is needed if reliable observations leading to reproducible conclusions by competent experts are to result.  
   
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