University of Leicester eBulletin

Scientists from Universities of Leicester and Birmingham in Search for Missing Persons

March 2003
No 85

Experts to set off for crucial mission

IMAGES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST- CONTACT HR15@LE.AC.UK

British scientists are bringing their knowledge and experience and some of their 'state of the art' equipment - to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the overall effort to locate and identify the thousands of persons still missing following the Balkan conflicts. Sadly today this can only mean searching for graves, some of them in virtually inaccessible places - under hotels, petrol stations and parking lots or in collapsed underground mines.

Experts from the Universities of Leicester and Birmingham are collaborating with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), based in Sarajevo. ICMP works closely with Bosnian and other former Yugoslavian authorities in the recovery, examination and identification of missing persons throughout the region.

John Hunter, Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, heads a group of experts who will bring ground-penetrating radar and other advanced technology used to find mass graves and to document bodies and artifacts contained within the graves. [Photo: skulls]

Guy Rutty, Professor of Forensic Pathology at the University of Leicester heads the Leicester team which includes Dr Benjamin Swift, of the Division of Forensic Pathology, University of Leicester. They will be testing human bones to assess the time since death and the 'life history' of missing persons, used to complement ICMP's DNA-led identification system and traditional means of identifying missing persons. 

According to Ms Cecily Cropper, ICMP Senior Forensic Archaeologist, a major goal of this project is to use the ground penetrating radar not only to locate sites, but to document as much as possible about the grave's contents before ever disturbing the ground. Adds Rick Harrington, Head of ICMP's Exhumations and Examinations Program: "There are several controversial sites in the region, where people suspect that bodies have been hidden in underground mine tunnels or buried under hotels, petrol stations or concrete slabs and parking lots. To tear down buildings or undertake massive excavations of old mines, only to find there are no bodies, would be a risky venture, to say the least.  Ground penetrating radar can document some of these sites without the need to dig. We may even find some of the largest mass graves to date in Bosnia and Herzegovina".   [Photo: site of mass grave]

The UK and ICMP scientists will meet in Sarajevo on March 21 for lectures and discussions. Field-testing of the search-and-mapping equipment at suspected mass grave sites will take place between March 24-26. This visit is being funded by the British Council Bosnia and Herzegovina.

NOTES:

PROFESSOR RUTTY's telephone number is 0116 252 3221 

Press Office, University of Birmingham (+44)(0) 121 414 6680, email s.j.primmer@bham.ac.uk

Press Office University of Leicester (+44) (0) 116 252 2415, email pressoffice@le.ac.uk 

For more information contact ICMP Press Officer, Aldijana Buhic on ++387 (0) 33 218 660 or on ++387 (0) 61 222 142.

ICMP was created in 1996 at the G-7 Summit, in Lyon, France. Its primary objectives include: to intensify government efforts to release information on the missing; to assist in building a regional capacity to accelerate the process of recovery and identification of mortal remains that incorporates the use of state-of-the-art DNA technology; and to strengthen the capability of associations of families of missing persons to address the issue. The current chairman of ICMP is James V Kimsey. Mr Kimsey is the Founding CEO and Chairman Emeritus of America Online Inc (AOL), as well as a Philanthropist and Vietnam war veteran.

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