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28 June 2011 - Media release

Disaster experts gather at INTERPOL to advance global standards

LYON, France – Senior international forensic and law enforcement experts are gathering at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat in Lyon to review and consolidate international victim identification methods following natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Bringing together some 160 representatives from more than 40 countries and from international organizations such as the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as private sector partners, the 22nd Meeting of the Standing Committee on Disaster Victim Identification (28-30 June) will underline the importance of a global response using INTERPOL’s internationally-accepted Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) standards.

Underlining the need for the Standing Committee on DVI  to serve as an international platform for continually developing knowledge and expertise to assist victims and their families, INTERPOL Secretary General Noble said: “It is our collective responsibility to learn from any tragic event in which people lose their lives and ensure that disaster victim identification experts are better prepared for the next eventuality and that the systems in place, both nationally and internationally, are as effective as possible.

“Law enforcement, whose mission is first and foremost to serve each and every citizen in need, can and must play a fundamental role in this endeavour. This is why INTERPOL, the world’s largest police organization, has become a key reference point in Disaster Victim Identification, together with its international partners,” added Mr Noble.

The Head of INTERPOL said that the most devastating earthquake in the history of Japan and its subsequent tsunami were recent reminders of what was at stake.

The meeting heard that according to the United Nations, up to 50 million people are displaced in any given year following natural disasters. In parallel, transnational terrorist groups are constantly seeking any opportunity to leave as many victims as possible with every single attack; and as the global population grows, the probability of multiple nationalities being involved in major disasters and incidents will only rise with time. 

Against this backdrop, Secretary General Noble said: “We should ask ourselves a simple question: how can we best prepare ourselves when we will be called upon to respond? INTERPOL’s unique DVI framework is at the centre of any such a response, and we must all work together to ensure that the needs of all countries are met, wherever and whenever a disaster strikes.”

In the aftermath of the Typhoon Frank ferry disaster in the Philippines in June 2008 in which some 800 passengers lost their lives, INTERPOL was a leading partner in national and international efforts in Cebu City to facilitate the dignified, efficient and accurate identification of the victims of the tragedy using sophisticated DNA technology. DVI operations on the ground saw INTERPOL and the ICMP work closely together.

“Our vision is that of making the model that was so effective in Cebu City in 2008 the reference for future DVI efforts,” concluded Secretary General Noble.

Previously, following the Asian Tsunami disaster of December 2004, the world police body deployed a DVI team to the region and dispatched Incident Response Teams to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia at their request.

INTERPOL's international gathering of DVI experts emphasized the need for continually developing global standards in responding to disasters.