Ukraine: Experts discuss identification of mortal remains in armed conflict and other emergencies

21 March 2017

A three-day seminar on identifying dead bodies in armed conflict and other emergencies got underway today, organized by the ICRC in cooperation with Ukraine's National Association of Forensic Experts. The aim of the seminar is to improve the exhumation and identification of mortal remains in Ukraine, and to strengthen the country's network of forensic experts.

"The Donbass conflict has resulted in a large number of unidentified bodies, both soldiers and civilians," said Alain Aeschlimann, the head of the ICRC delegation in Ukraine. "This seminar will give officials and forensic experts the opportunity to hear about the latest practices being used around the world in dead-body management and identification. The idea is to improve their practical skills, thereby speeding up the identification process in Ukraine. This will make a real difference to people whose relatives are missing. Finally getting answers about their loved ones' fate means they can grieve at last."

The seminar is bringing together experts from the Medical Legal Bureau of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, the Investigations Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Scientific and Research Institute of the Security Service and the Civic-Military Cooperation Directorate of the Armed Forces, as well as ICRC forensic experts.

The participants will be discussing the process of searching for, retrieving, examining and identifying human remains. There will be interactive sessions and practical exercises in Disaster Victim Identification, with an emphasis on handling complex cases and adopting a multidisciplinary and inter-institutional approach. The participants will also share their experiences of using forensic genetics, including the practical aspects of DNA analysis, to identify human remains.

Over a thousand people are still missing as a result of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. With many bodies still unidentified, hundreds of people still do not know what happened to their loved ones. The ICRC is working with the authorities to improve their working methods and equip them to cope with this challenge.

For further information, please contact:
Sanela Bajrambasic, ICRC Kiev, tel: +380 67 509 42 06
Oleksandr Vlasenko, ICRC Kiev, tel. +380 50 348 47 43