DNA labs being set up to identify criminals

DNA labs being set up to identify criminals
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The department will also identify parents of children and bodies of those who die in accidents or natural disasters within the earliest possible time

The government has set up a DNA Laboratory Management Department (DNA LMD) to identify criminals, to ensure their punishment even in cases where there are no witnesses.

The department will also identify parents of children and bodies of those who die in accidents or natural disasters within the earliest possible time.

The DNA LMD was set up under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, confirmed Kazi Rowshan Akhter, secretary of the ministry, to Dhaka Tribune on Thursday.

Dr Abul Hossain, project director of the “Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women” under the ministry, said: “If a culprit is identified by a DNA test, a witness will not be required. Punishment will be given on the basis of the result of the test.” 

In 2014, the government enacted the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Act to determine the process and method of collecting and analyzing a person’s DNA samples, controlling the use of DNA samples and profiles, establishing a forensic DNA laboratory, setting up a national DNA database, and other ancillary matters.

The DNA Laboratory Management Department will operate other functions prescribed by the Act, including the establishment of a DNA laboratory, a national DNA database, and the coordination, supervision and monitoring of related activities.

With the setting up of the central DNA department, divisional DNA screening laboratories in Rajshahi, Sylhet, Barisal, Khulna, Rangpur, and Faridpur medical colleges, the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory (NFDPL) in Dhaka will coordinate with them.

The divisional laboratories now collect samples from remote areas and send them to the NFDPL, located on the 10th floor of the Nuclear Medicine Building of Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH).

Currently, 85 biochemists work at the DNA LMD. 

DNA testing to serve various purposes

Dr Abul Hossain said the DNA testing will benefit victims by identifying perpetrators in the absence of any witnesses.

Law enforcement agencies have already been using DNA tests to identify primary perpetrators accused in rape cases, or to determine paternity.

DNA testing will help reduce violence against women and ensure justice for them, he said.

The biotechnology testing could identify relatives and family members in disasters and missing persons too.

He cited examples of the Rana Plaza collapse, the fire at Tazreen Fashions, and the BDR mutiny, where DNA testing played a vital role in identifying missing individuals.

Dr Abul said an important role of DNA testing is also to stop the illegal trade in organs like kidneys.

He said people in remote areas are selling their kidneys, lured by vested groups, though the government has instituted laws so that no one can transfer or sell organs without relatives. 

A DNA test can firmly clarify the identity of people, he said.

Immigration facilities will also be safer due to DNA testing, Dr Abul said.

Furthermore, It can prove the identity of people who want to immigrate to the USA or other countries where testing is a must, he continued.

DNA testing will also solve problems in identifying real successors of a property, as people sometimes are tangled up in false cases concerning property ownership.

He added: “We are working to develop a DNA database on a large scale, of criminals who have already been convicted by the courts. The data will help law enforcement agencies if he/she is again involved in a crime.

“If the government wants to collect DNA data of all citizens in the country, we will be working on it in future,” added the project director.

An official of the  Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of police said the database will play a vital role in identifying extremists in the country.

“In the case of any major incident, we will be able to identify whether a perpetrator is a homegrown militant or not.”   

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