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31 May 2013 - Media release

Disaster experts gather at INTERPOL to enhance international victim identification standards

LYON, France – International forensic and law enforcement experts gathered at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat in Lyon to review international victim identification methods and discuss new technologies and other ways to improve identification efforts.

Bringing together some 155 representatives from some 50 member countries, international organizations and private sector partners including the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the 24th meeting of the INTERPOL Standing Committee on Disaster Victim Identification (28-30 May) highlighted the importance of a global response using INTERPOL’s internationally recognized Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) standards.

Discussions during the meeting focused on the latest methods and tools available to enhance the identification of victims following natural or manmade disasters, including virtual autopsy techniques, CT imaging, forensic dentistry and the use of INTERPOL’s DVI forms. 

Participants were given a demonstration of the prototype system of INTERPOL’s FAST and efficient international disaster victim IDentification (FASTID) project. When fully implemented, the FASTID project will serve as the first centralized, global database of information that can be used to quickly identify and link missing persons and unidentified bodies (MPUB).

Developed with experts from five European partners, the MPUB database includes search capabilities for DNA and dental records, and interfaces with other INTERPOL databases such as fingerprints.

In his opening remarks, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin said greater communication and information sharing is key to improving the speed and efficiency of future international DVI efforts. 

“It is vitally important that when the emergency is over, the police community and all those who participated in the operations strive to objectively identify any gaps and weaknesses in existing structures and systems, to be able to act more quickly and more efficiently when another disaster occurs.

“INTERPOL has learned from every experience, and is actively developing its ability to provide its members with the support they need, when they need it,” concluded Mr Louboutin.

Case studies of recent disasters and DVI efforts highlighted the need for a collaborative, global approach to victim identification, as the number of victims can be overwhelming for national law enforcement services and victims of a single disaster can be from multiple countries. Incidents reviewed included a fire in a nightclub in Brazil where 235 people died, the terrorist attack at a gas plant in Algeria where more than 80 people were killed, and the Costa Concordia cruise ship crash in which 32 people perished.