DNA profiles of Ukrainians in one database: What's the purpose?

Author : Ksenia Tsyvirko

Source : 112 Ukraine

A few days ago, a bill №4265 "On state registration of human genomic information" appeared in the parliament. It implies mandatory collection of DNA for a number of categories of citizens
22:31, 9 November 2020

Open source

The automated information retrieval system is designed to simplify the capture of criminals and the identification of missing persons. However, according to experts, a useful idea of ​​the MPs in the process of its implementation may bring poor results.

Whose data are going to be stored and how much it will cost

Determination of DNA from biomaterials collected at the crime scene has long become a routine task for domestic forensic experts. However, this does not make it easier at all to catch the criminals: the investigation must first determine the circle of suspects and only then establish their involvement using a comparative DNA analysis. The police officers' long-standing dream of creating such a system that would allow them to sort through DNA profiles from a common database in a matter of seconds and find matches that directly indicate criminals, it seems, may come true.

In this bill, the MPs propose that arrested and convicted persons who have committed crimes against life, health, sexual freedom, and sexual inviolability must provide genomic information. In addition, every 8 years, it is planned to collect saliva from military personnel: in the context of permanent war in the East, these measures should facilitate the identification of unidentified corpses and missing persons. Anyone can voluntarily replenish the police DNA database, including foreigners and stateless persons.

It is assumed that genomic information about Ukrainians will be stored for 75 years, and the biomaterials themselves - no longer than 10 years. According to the MPs' calculations, this "pleasure" will cost the state about UAH 277 million (9.7 million USD).

"This amount can be safely multiplied 3-5 times: the bills always provide minimum estimates for basic needs. In the process of implementation, the creation of such an automated system will require much more funds, there will be unforeseen expenses. Well, of course, they also need to steal," says lawyer and ex-investigator Viktor Chevguz.

Will the new DNA base help reduce the crime rate?

Chevguz is confident that the widespread use of a database of human genomic information, which makes it possible to automatically find links between evidence found at the crime scene and former convicts, could lead to unexpected results. However, on the whole, this bill is assessed positively. In his opinion, the DNA base will shed light on the huge number of unsolved crimes that lie dead weight in police stations.

A 2017 US study found that genomic information in the hands of police officers "deter profiled criminals from committing crimes, lower crime rates, and are more cost-effective than traditional law enforcement tools." However, in Ukraine, experts are not so optimistic in their forecasts: positive results can be expected only in a country with a favorable environment, with a democratic form of government and an independent judicial system.

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 "A lot of other information will also emerge, it discredits the work of judges and prosecutors, who put a person in jail. Quite a large number of people are serving sentences for crimes that they did not commit. Just remember the Pavlograd maniac Tkach. Despite the fact that he confessed in the crimes committed, at least 11 innocent people were punished for his crimes at one time, and some of them were shot. Of course, you can initiate a review of the criminal case in which the innocent person was convicted. But the acquittal verdict, in this case, will serve as a pretext for disciplinary action and prosecutors and judges do not want to admit their mistakes and criticize their professional qualities, "explains the lawyer.

Safe and secure collection of DNA data

The MPs propose that DNA profiles should be entered into a single database in an impersonal form, but with a mention of the organ that provided the test: it is to this organ that you will need to apply for subsequent identification of the person if a comparative DNA test gave a positive result. This approach to administration is used in Interpol, it is intended not only to protect personal data but also to reduce the likelihood of fraud. The database of the international organization DNA Gateway has several hundred DNA profiles containing only the formula of the human genome, which are used exclusively for exchange and comparison.

However, a retired colonel and former senior investigator for particularly important cases Ruslan Sushko does not believe in the safety of the relevant data collection in Ukraine.

"How can you transfer your DNA profiles to the Avakov ministry, when the level of trust in the law enforcement system in our country fluctuates within three percent? Are you sure that DNA profiles will be processed honestly, and your biomaterials will not be found, if someone needs it, at details of an explosive device at "the place of Sheremet's murder?" asks Sushko a rhetorical question.

Falsification of evidence, appropriation of DNA, deletion of profiles from the database - in Ukraine, these acts, he said, will not do without. The expert is sure that there will also be dealers offering money to issue a certificate on the delivery of a biomaterial sample for a DNA profile.

Be that as it may, the first steps towards creating a database of human genomic information have already been taken. Since the end of 2014, with the help of such an automated system, missing persons have been searched for in the ATO / JFO zone. The State Research Forensic Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs reports that their database includes more than 2 000 DNA profiles of unidentified corpses, half of which were found in the combat zone. The closest relatives of the missing can contact the local police station, where they will take a saliva sample and send it for examination to one of the 17 laboratories of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In a few weeks, the decoded DNA formula will be entered into the forensic experts' database for future comparison with the bodies found. At the moment, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has managed to identify almost 600 remains found in the ATO / JFO zone, but not all relatives agree with this examination result. The hope that a loved one who disappeared without a trace will one day return home, apparently dies last, despite the conclusion of criminologists that the unidentified body was identified.

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