Posts Tagged ‘DNA database’


DNA Designed for Human Rights

Tue, Oct 20th, 2015

In May, human traffickers prevented thousands of Bangladeshi and ethnic Rohingya migrants from entering Thailand and Malaysia, despite extreme abuses aboard the ships including sexual assault of children and homicide. In April, thousands of northern Africans fled Libya to cross the Mediterranean, resulting in thousands ending up at the bottom of the sea. Last summer, extreme gang violence forced a surge of Central American children to migrate unaccompanied through Mexico and into the U.S. And in April 2014, the world was shocked by the brutal kidnapping of hundreds of young Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram.

Exploitation of vulnerable people around the world is a continuing reality, and unlikely to be resolved with any single effort. But measures can be taken to provide resources and assistance to address these human rights abuses. In the world of forensic sciences, this can include identification of displaced or deceased persons, and the reunification of children with their biological relatives.

Mass disasters and terrorist attacks in the last decade or so have helped to refine genetic technologies and tools necessary for kinship analysis, especially in challenged samples, advancing human rights efforts in post-mortem identification and verification of biological relationships. Improved technologies have enabled, for example, post-conflict identification efforts of victims in mass graves following several wars over the last 70 years.

However, we see few examples of our grand genomic technologies being applied to living vulnerable persons at-risk or suffering from human rights abuses, like orphans displaced by Argentina’s Dirty War, for example. The abuses we have witnessed in the past 18 months—and more are expected to come—deserve the attention and application of our refined sciences, and a cohesive response from the forensic community, armed with technology to apply the appropriate tools given the context of the crisis and the specific vulnerabilities of the population.

Valiant efforts have already been made to pilot DNA applications to high-risk populations and human trafficking cases. Five years ago, Forensic Magazine highlighted DNA-PROKIDS, a collaboration between the University of Granada and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI), which has provided resources, database technology and training to multiple nations in need of kinship analysis for child trafficking cases. UNTCHI also has partnered with Dallas law enforcement agencies to collect DNA of at-risk sex workers as a pre-emptive, post-mortem identification program.

Project KARE has operated a similar program in Edmonton, Alberta since 2003, collecting thousands of samples from sex workers.7 Forensic Magazine also covered the pilot efforts that have been made to explore the technical feasibility of using DNA in high-risk populations and for identification of missing persons, mass disasters and deceased migrants.

Stemming from these efforts and others, several human identification databases now exist or are under development to enable post-mortem identification in high-risk populations—some that parallel, compliment or are entirely independent of CODIS. Database-sharing tools and strategies that respect jurisdictional boundaries, minimize privacy intrusions and maximize identification results must be developed and shared with the forensic community. It is imperative that efforts of stakeholders at all levels work together to have the greatest efficiency and effect…

… To read the full article by Sara Katsanis, please click here.

SOURCE: This article was first published by Forensic Magazine on 25 September 2015.

Thousands of detectives now trained to handle DNA

Thu, May 14th, 2015

SAPS demonstrating the taking of a buccal swab at the 3rd National Forensic Services Conference held in 2015.

JOHANNESBURG – Members of Parliament have heard thousands of detectives have already been trained to take the forensic samples [buccal swabs] that will go towards building a national DNA database.

Lieutenant General Kgomotso Phahlane has briefed Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee on the implementation of the so-called DNA Act that came into operation in January.

“Our target was to make sure that 5,500 people were trained by the end of March and 5,456 have been trained.”

The Criminal Law Amendment Act provides for a DNA database that will help identify the perpetrators of unsolved crimes, prove the innocence or guilt of accused persons and help find missing people.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)

SOURCE: This article was first published by Eyewitness News on 12 May 2015

Women’s ‘Arrest Law’: Warning

Sun, Jul 24th, 2011

Recently, we received the email below:


An incident took place – a young girl was attacked by a man posing as a plain clothes officer; he asked her to come to the police station when she & her male friend didn’t have a driver’s license to show. He sent the male friend off to get his license and asked the girl to accompany him to the police station. Instead he took her to an isolated area where the rape was committed.

The law [which most of us are not aware of] clearly states that between 6 pm and 6 am, a woman has the right to REFUSE to go to the Police Station, even if an arrest warrant has been issued against her.

It is procedural that a woman can only be arrested between 6am and 6pm, unless she is arrested by a woman officer and taken to an ALL WOMEN police station. If she is arrested by a male officer, it has to be proven that a

woman officer was on duty at the time of arrest.

Please fwd this to as many girls/women you know. Guys, protect your wives, sisters and mothers by knowing this law. It is good for us to know our rights.

Do not neglect, fwd to your entire buddy list.


After some research, we identified that this email is a hoax which has been circulating the internet for a few years and has been credited in various forms in different countries throughout the world. Although a law such as this would be great in terms of our high rate of rape in South Africa, it is simply not true.

One thing which females should remember if they are arrested, is that under the Criminal Procedures Act, a woman can only be searched by a female police officer. This is your right and if this is not performed by a female you have the right to insist that it is.

If you come across any emails such as this, please do not forward this incorrect information further. Although your intentions are noble, by passing on these hoax emails, you could inadvertently cause someone to be charged with refusing arrest, if they believe that these emails are true.

Dr. Carolyn Hancock on 702 Radio

Wed, Jun 29th, 2011

Last Sunday, Udo Carelse from 702 Radio invited Dr. Carolyn Hancock to discuss the DNA Project and the role of DNA forensics in South Africa. 702 Radio has a special slot on a Sunday morning where they address issues of crime. They get station commanders from various policing stations to address issues in their areas. However, this week’s focus was on the recent break-ins at both the Gauteng police commissioner Mzwandile Petros’s home and the former national commissioner Jackie Selebi’s home. The general view was that such high profile people definitely receive special attention when they are victims of crime. However, changing to a slightly different

Udo Carelse

issue, Udo chatted to Carolyn about what is being done for the average South African when DNA evidence is left at a crime scene. They also discussed the new DNA Bill and the study tour currently being undertaken by the parliamentary committee to Canada and the UK. Below is the sound clip of the interview with Carolyn where she highlights the roll of DNA forensics and the need for the expansion of South Africa’s national DNA database. Please remember to contact us at if you are interested in our DNA awareness workshops!

Click on the link below for the interview, or right click and save the file.

Dr Carolyn Hancock 702 Radio

Note: The legislation was drafted in 2008 and not 1998 as stated in the sound clip.

Is DNA forensics being used in South Africa?

Mon, Jun 27th, 2011

Yes! DNA is used in a number of forensic investigations that are performed daily in South Africa. This is great news but unfortunately this amazing technology is still under utilised in our country. So what has been in the news lately?

A single cigarette butt left at the scene of a robbery and murder has led to the conviction of a 24-year-old man

An article, published in ioL news on the 21st June, describes how DNA evidence was used to convict a 24-year old man of the robbery and murder of Cornelia Janneke. Without the DNA evidence collected by police and the CSI team, Thumelo Monakedi would have never been brought to justice. The accused vehemently denied ever being at the scene of the crime. However, the saliva on the tip of a cigarette butt irrefutably proved his presence at the crime. With a 23 billion chance of the DNA profile on the cigarette not being the accused, it shows without any doubt who committed this crime!

With one child going missing every six hours in South Africa I found another recent article very interesting. A pilot project that involves the collection of pupil’s fingerprints, saliva swabs, hair samples and a photo ID of the pupil, has been introduced into a school in Brackenfell on the 20 June 2011.

OUCH! Bastion Primary Grade 1 pupil Anita Steyn, 7, braces herself as Sjean de Kock, a fourth-year social work student, takes a hair sample to be included in the IDENT-A-KID database, aimed at keeping children safe. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Note is also taken of physical features, such as hair and eye colour as well as age. All this information will be stored on a school database, so that if a missing child is found the police will be able to identify the child. With projects like this in South Africa, we would also be able to identify missing children and reunite them with their families.

So going back to the main question, is DNA being used in forensic investigations in South Africa? Yes it is – but there is SO much more that still needs to be done….. For example, we desperately need to pass the amendment to the Criminal Procedures Act which would allow for the expansion of our National DNA Database. Unfortunately, due to the this legislation not being considered by the Parliamentary Committee for Police, the police are not empowered to utilise DNA evidence to it’s full potential. To quote a recent article written by Chris Asplen on the delay in the legislation regarding the expansion and regulation of the national DNA database, “hundreds of thousands of children’s lives are sacrificed because of the failure to act by politicians in South Africa.”