LYON, France - Senior police officials from 26 countries who gathered at the INTERPOL General Secretariat on 5 January have agreed on steps to further support disaster victim identification efforts following the Asian earthquake and tsunami disaster and to address related law enforcement issues.
The meeting endorsed Secretary General Ronald K. Noble's proposal to immediately create a Crisis Management Support Group, consisting of INTERPOL staff and officials from member countries, to assist in the co-ordination and support of international disaster victim identification efforts in Asia.
Detailed recommendations on how to further assist the multinational Disaster Victim Identification Command Structure already in place in Phuket, Thailand, will be evaluated as soon as possible by members of the new crisis management unit, INTERPOL member countries and DVI teams in the field.
Among the recommendations are the need for a centralised storage point in affected countries for DNA profiles, fingerprints and other victim identification data, and national processes for matching samples to unidentified victims' bodies.
The Head of the International Disaster Victim Identification Command Structure in Thailand, General Nopadol Supsomboon of the Royal Thai Police, and a member of the Netherlands Disaster Victim Identification team, Jan van Manen both gave detailed presentations to the meeting.
General Nopadol said that no additional DVI teams were immediately required in Thailand but new teams needed to be identified to replace those leaving when the first rotation occurs. INTERPOL Secretary General Noble commended Thailand for accepting DVI teams from more than two dozen countries and for their adoption of the internationally accepted INTERPOL standard for disaster victim identification.
INTERPOL has sent its own Incident Response Team to set up an emergency logistics and communications centre for the DVI command structure in Phuket.
'The many countries affected, the many sites where disaster victim identification is proceeding and the sheer number of victims all require clear agreement on processes if we are to be effective and bring this task to a conclusion,' Mr. Noble said.
'DVI is of vital importance for police investigations and we owe it to countless families who are currently missing loved ones and who wish them to be identified and brought home to be laid to rest, to identify and repatriate the victims of this tragedy.'
Last week's tsunami disaster represents the largest ever displacement of DVI teams by INTERPOL member countries and the largest effort of this kind by INTERPOL's Command and Co-ordination Centre in Lyon.
INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble travelled to Phuket on 31 December 2004 to make a first hand assessment of the additional support needed for the DVI teams there. He will make similar fact-finding trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives next week.